It’s an astonishing fact, but the first evidence of scaffolding can be traced back to over 17,000 years ago. Sockets in the walls surrounding cave paintings at Lascaux in southwestern France indicate that a scaffold was used to assist the painting of the ceiling.
The Berlin Foundry Cup – an ancient Greek drinking cup with a painted image of the goddess Thetis receiving weapons from the god of crafts Hephaistos for her son Achilles – depicts scaffolding used in ancient Greek society. Other ancient societies in Africa and Asia have also been utilising scaffolding for thousands of years.
In fact, without the development of scaffolding, we simply would not be able to enjoy some of the ancient and modern wonders of the world that still exist today. Scaffolding has been utilised in the construction of wonders ranging from the ancient Egyptian pyramids to the Taj Mahal and everything in between.
In China and the Far East, many of the same techniques and materials that were used as far back as 5,000 years ago are still relevant in modern construction. Bamboo, in particular, has been used for thousands of years in construction scaffolding and is still being used in many parts of Asia, with construction workers climbing up the frames like spidermen. Bamboo is both lightweight, flexible and sturdy enough to support a substantial amount of weight for workers and equipment.
These attributes mean that there’s no need for any machinery for the scaffolding erection; workers can put it up as they go and disassemble it as they come back down. It is also a cheap and renewable way for nations and workers with less financial and material resource, or challenging import circumstances, to continue working effectively. In Hong Kong, some of their most sophisticated skyscrapers are still built using bamboo scaffolding.
Fast-forward to more recent times, we take a look at some of the most impressive scaffolding projects of the modern era and why they are so remarkable.
Scaffolders and Their Greatest Modern Achievements
Designed by Grimshaw Architects, Cornwall’s Eden Project is a superb achievement in modern building design. First envisioned and designed in 1996 and opening its doors in March of 2001, the Eden Project is part tourist hot-spot, part social enterprise and one of the most pioneering man-made garden projects in human history. Built in a disused clay pit, two gargantuan biomes have provided a living space for more than an astounding one million plants.
You could fit the Tower of London inside of the Rainforest Biome and it weighs 465 tonnes; the Mediterranean Biome covers around 6540m squared. Together, in conjunction with the outdoor space, the entire complex spreads across 13 hectares.
To achieve this great feat of architecture, a huge amount of scaffolding was required. These biomes stand on an 890m long foundation beam and, to keep everything in place and facilitate the structure, an insane 230 miles of scaffolding was used. This scaffolding erection was crucial in the success of the project and the amount of scaffolding used even got the Eden Project an entry into the Guinness Book of Records!
Perhaps one of the most iconic structures in the world is New York City’s Statue of Liberty. After years of construction, the statue was dedicated and opened on October 28th 1886 by President Grover Cleveland. It was a construction unique to the world at the time, acting as a symbol of the ideals that the independent United States was built upon.
By 1984, however, the statue needed significant restoration. After a period of consultation, the architect-engineer, metals expert, structural engineer and mechanical engineers hired to assess the physical condition of the statue discovered that two main sections of the statue had corroded: the torch-bearing arm and a platform at the head level. It was also found that some girders were corroded and there were structural problems with the insulating layer between the copper sheet and the iron bands of the structural armature.
During the restoration project, scaffolding was erected in April 1984. The scaffolding structure was a whopping 240 feet high and tailor-made specifically for the statue. As the scaffolding could only be attached to the pedestal rather than the statue and had to fit around the shape of the structure, this required some engineering innovation. The scaffolding also had to remain 18 inches from the copper, so a significant amount of thought had to go into the design. This construction consisted of 6,000 separate pieces, made of high load capacity aluminium with screw jacks to connect the aluminium against the pedestal.
More recently still, in 2015 a nation-wide first in scaffolding innovation was constructed in the UK. The world-famous Winchester Cathedral, which has been standing in the historical town since the 11th century, is going through a restoration worth over £20 million and, as part of that restoration, there is significant work being done on the roof. This has required a huge amount of innovation in the construction scaffolding. For the first time, the firm which took control of the build installed a 27 tonne temporary roof. The sections of the roof were pre-built and then lifted by a 300-tonne crane onto the roof. This structure helped to weather-proof the cathedral during the restoration and is the biggest scaffolding structure to have ever been placed on a British Cathedral.
With the complexity of the structure and the limited space that the team had to operate in, the lift and all the elements of the project had to work to the very smallest of margins which is one of the reasons that the lift attracted hundreds of onlookers.
What Scaffolding Services are Involved in These Types of Projects?
Scaffolding is a crucial part of any construction or restoration job and perhaps undervalued. Depending on the size and shape of the building that has been designed, or needs restoration, a different type of scaffolding will need to be designed. As detailed previously, sometimes this can require great feats of engineering prowess.
A construction scaffolding firm will have to run a detailed survey of the building and designs, keep a keen eye out for any potential complications, run a risk assessment, decide if any alternative materials need to be used, decide whether any specific choices need to be made for a listed building and then decide on the design with those parameters in mind. All of these elements will have an impact on the final scaffolding costs.
From there, a quote will be written and a bespoke scaffolding design package created to suit the particular project. Once a beautifully designed building has been constructed, it’s rare that anyone will remember the scaffolding, however, these exoskeletons facilitate all building projects, have a huge historical significance and have been the backbone to some of mankind’s greatest ever architectural achievements.
Great Design at a Scaffolding Price That’s Right
Founded in 2011, DH Scaffold Services LTD is a scaffold design company based in Sheffield; working on projects both large and small across the entirety of the UK. We always make sure all of the work we do is safe and efficient, whilst trying to keep the scaffolding costs down, to achieve the best result for the client as well as the project.
We offer an end-to-end scaffolding design service, so before we start work we can run site surveys, including a risk assessment, detailed calculations and drawings. We’ll also be able to provide a quote for the work we propose, create a design package, work on a new project or inspect and work on a pre-existing site to make it compliant with regulations.
Since we’ve been established, we’ve completed over 2,000 projects; including Fenwick Shopping Centre. If you want to find out more, contact us. We’re located at Office 3, Upper Floors, Eurobroid, Dodd St, Sheffield S6 2NR or you can call us on 0114 230 0923.