"It usually has some prep, but it is not super-extensive," he says. Deep South has built two 36000s and another on the drawing board. One is working in Colombia at a refinery—the company's first time using the crane abroad.

Transportation is another consideration with supercranes. Some cranes, such as the Mammoet PTC, are designed to ship in containers, which then become ballast boxes for the crane. Users are instructed to fill the boxes with local materials—such as sand and gravel—to provide the proper counterweight. Lampson's crane breaks down into about 100 truckloads, and the boom pieces are pinned, not welded, which cuts down on wasted space during transport.

The Bigge-built supercrane travels in about 160 truckloads. Instead of using a traditional counterweight, its central ring bears down on a 4,500-tonne mass of concrete and steel in the ground. Its dual rings bear on spread footings.

Will crane capacities keep going up? Most interviewed for this story believed they will. Ashton says Bigge is working on a design that is "quite a bit bigger" than its current machine. Meanwhile, he adds, the engineering found inside these supercranes is something to celebrate.

"Everybody loves a crane," Ashton says. "It is the most exciting part of the construction industry."