Scaffolding structures no one should climb
When we see a tall scaffold erected up the side of a skyscraper, we usually marvel at this flimsy looking structure with workers scattered over it like ants on a fence. We are usually thankful that it’s not us risking our lives by working on this ridiculously high and unstable-looking piece of lattice work.
But even in today’s high tech world of advanced technology, the humble scaffold is still an essential part of any renovation or construction project. Sometimes they take it to silly heights, making your average scaffold look like a kids’ jungle gym.
Let’s take a look at a few examples and be thankful you don’t have to climb these structures for your salary.
1. Statue of Liberty Restoration Project
The statue of Liberty, America’s shiny beacon of freedom and symbol of everything the USA is supposed to represent. Now irony aside, the structure is impressive, and when lady liberty was due for a makeover in 1984, drastic measures were called for to restore the big girl to her former glory.
In this case the challenge wasn’t so much the height, as the fact that the scaffolding itself was not allowed to touch the statue. What resulted was the world’s tallest freestanding scaffolding at 320 feet. They used mainly tubular aluminium trusses, and of course, everything had to be 100% properly connected with no margin for error.
The project took two years and cost close to $90m at the time. It involved replacing the 1,600 wrought iron bands that hold the statue’s copper skin to its frame, replacing its torch and installing an elevator.
2. Washington Monument
While Lady Liberty was not the highest project ever, it was the highest freestanding one. When you do not have such restrictions, the sky is literally the limit.
The Washington Monument restoration project built a unique structural scaffolding design around the iconic monument. The structure covered the monument from top to bottom, and included the use of extruded tubular aluminium. This lead to them wining the U.S. Park Service’s technical competition, and consequently been awarded the 555-ft project. The scaffolding needed to be in place for a year, so they made sure that it followed the contours of the building, thereby limiting the visibility of the construction of the building.
This was not just a case of building a structure around the monument. In order for the scaffold to conform to the obelisk’s contour, it required some precise geometric equation calculations, ensuring that each level was proportionally identical. The restoration was successfully completed on time for the millennium celebration, which took place with the scaffolding still in place.
3. Niagara Falls
Height is not always the issue when it comes to dangerous structures. The ground foundation that you lay it on, and the wind, can also be formidable factors.
This was the case when the Americans decided to build a 200 ft. tall observation tower at Niagara Falls. To assist with this project, the project team need to build a 200-ft. tall freestanding, shrink-wrapped scaffold enclosure surrounding the existing tower.
The structure was stabilised with 24 rock anchors embedded 35 ft. into the bedrock of the lower Niagara Gorge. It provided for a safe working area, especially during the treacherous winter months. There was also a special access stair case to provide personnel access to and from the lower gorge.
The scaffold enclosure was designed to withstand 65-mph winds and was fine except for a couple of occasions when winds exceeded 85 mph and they were deemed unsafe for usage.
4. Bamboo Scaffolding
While aluminium scaffolding can be scary, some high structures in Asia uses nothing but bamboo. Yes, many construction sites in Asia make use of bamboo to build scaffolding and they do an impressive, albeit really scary job of it.
A prime example is the Ekambaranathar temple in Kanchipuram, India, which climbs to nearly 200 feet in height. An amazingly elaborate bamboo scaffold was erected during its restoration.
Construction workers in Hong Kong also regularly used bamboo scaffolding to work on 21 century high rises.
5. Soul Apartments: Gold Coast Australia
In 2011 one of the tallest ever gantry scaffolds to be erected in Australia was put together to help construct the well-known “Soul Apartments’ on the Gold Coast.
A series of standard platforms, which covered the entire 72 floors was constructed. This was an impressive feat, and the standard columns used were so effective that the structure could have reached to above 100 floors if necessary. Nevertheless, a serious undertaking successfully completed.
So next time you pass a high-rise building covered in Scaffolding, take a minute to appreciate the art and engineering to construct this low-tech but highly effective solution to working at heights.