As with so many industries, construction has seen significant advances in recent years.
From developments in materials, to use of modern methods of construction – such as utilisation of timber frames in housebuilding – the industry has been moving forward.
Developments in access and scaffolding, through equipment and methods, should also be readily noted. For example, 20 years ago the majority of scaffold installations in the UK, unlike many on the continent, were centred on the use of tube and fittings.
Structures could sometimes be complex and would require significant amounts of material, particularly on large or irregularly shaped projects, with further considerations such as transportation and storage being a factor.
Keeping pace with the build
Now though, the access picture is markedly different in construction as well as in several specialist sectors such as oil and gas. More and more contractors are increasingly turning to modular scaffolding.
Also known as system scaffolding, the concept centres on an in-built, highly safe connection method, reducing the need for clamps and other separate fittings.
“Manufacturers of modular scaffolding can also develop equipment that links directly to a scaffold structure”
This not only results in enhanced safety (the reduced risk of components falling or being left on site being an obvious benefit) it also means faster erection and dismantling speed and less material requirement.
Additionally, wider bay designs, clearer walkways and high load-bearing capacity all contribute to more time efficiencies. Where modern building techniques are used, such as in housebuilding, the ability of the scaffold to keep pace with the build programme can be crucial.
Uses beyond scaffolding
Manufacturers of modular scaffolding can also develop equipment that links directly to a scaffold structure, extending the range of access solutions available to the scaffolder.
An example of this is the increasing use of lightweight temporary roofing structures (both static and rolling) which contrast dramatically to alternatives such as metal sheets. Temporary bridging, staircase and stadia seating are further common examples of where access equipment can be integrated with purpose-designed systems.
“Training is also vital to ensure scaffolders are skilled in system erection techniques”
There is, of course, a need for contractors to make a commitment towards the modular option. Investment in stock is inevitable but systems are often designed to common tube sizes, so the application of a modular design with conventional tube and fitting on the same project is often possible.
Training is also vital to ensure scaffolders are skilled in system erection techniques but these often build on the existing skillset of the workforce.
The market growth and increased update of modular designs demonstrates their ability to deliver on the objectives of safety, efficiency and quality, that are so important to the access and scaffolding sector.
While there will always be a role for tube and fitting scaffold equipment, the opportunities being created from what can perhaps be seen as a modular revolution, are difficult to ignored.
Sean Pike is managing director of Layher