Toronto rises above all others for most highrise construction activity in North America according to the Rider Levett Bucknall Crane Index 2019, with 120 active tower cranes in the city in July.

RLB’s Crane Index for North America, published biannually, tracks the number of operating tower cranes in 13 major cities across the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s a way of visually tracking the change in the construction environment in the major cities across the U.S. and Canada and we do this in other countries as well,” said Joe Pendlebury, RLB senior vice-president. “It’s something that is simple to identify. People drive to work every day and they seem to see more and more cranes so it’s just one way of indicating the construction vitality of each of the major cities and it’s a simple way of tracking development from year to year to see if there are more cranes.”

Of the cities surveyed, Toronto, Calgary, Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago saw an increase in crane counts; San Francisco, Phoenix and Honululu had a decrease in counts and Seattle, Portland, Boston, New York and Washington D.C.’s crane counts held steady.

The 120 high rise cranes deployed in Toronto in July is an increase of 16 cranes from January and 23 cranes more than the same time last year when there were 97 in the city. That’s more than twice the next city on the list.

“It’s the highest count that we’ve had since we started keeping track,” Pendlebury noted. “Back in 2015 there was 113 cranes. There are some huge developments going on in Toronto. One site alone has seven cranes on it.”

The projects are split between residential, 68 per cent and mixed-use, 14 per cent.

“Between residential and mixed-use it represents 82 per cent of all the cranes in the downtown core and that’s clearly the lion’s share of all the work that is underway in downtown Toronto,” Pendlebury noted. “Toronto has another 400 high rise projects proposed and are working their way through the system, so the outlook for Toronto remains strong … It shows confidence in the Toronto market.”

RLB analysts noted most of the development in Toronto is happening outside the downtown core area.

“For a number of years, the number of cranes in the downtown core versus the outskirts has been dropping,” explained Pendlebury. “More and more work has been done in the surrounding GTA rather than in the downtown core… There are 246 cranes in the GTA and 120 in the downtown core and this reverses the trend of the work being done in the core versus the surrounding areas.”

In addition to Toronto, Seattle and Los Angeles top the list with 49 cranes each. Calgary (34) and Portland (30) round out the top five.

Calgary is also seeing a rise in the number of cranes due to highrise multi-family projects, according to the index. There were 34 cranes deployed at development sites in July, an increase of 26 from the same time last year. It is also the highest number of cranes in Calgary since the index started.

“The downtown area sees additions in the University District, East Village, and the Beltline areas, echoing that increase with office, commercial, mixed-use, healthcare, and infrastructure construction underway,” the index states.

The July 2019 survey marks the fourth consecutive increase in crane counts. Mixed-use and residential projects account for 67 per cent of all cranes counted.

“The construction industry continues to demonstrate growth, with projects coming to completion almost at the rate others are breaking ground,” states the index. “We forecast this trend to last through the end of the year.”