In urban cities, scaffolding is all around us. It holds up many of the manmade structures that make up our surroundings, like advertising hoardings, concert stages, exhibition booths, art installations or many forms of grandstand seating at sports events. In tall buildings, window cleaning is difficult, and often dangerous, without it.
In civil engineering, too, scaffolding serves some vital purposes. When it comes to construction, maintenance and repair work, scaffolding is temporarily built around the periphery of a construction site to provide workers access to the top, as well as to, hard-to-reach places.
Different materials are used to make scaffolding for construction.
For cheaper, low-rise buildings, wooden or bamboo scaffolds are common in countries where it is easily grown and labor is cheaply available. Wooden/bamboo poles and planks are bound together using coir ropes, creating a framework for workers to climb and work. Wooden/bamboo scaffolds, however, tend to need replacement every six-to-nine months due to sun exposure that weakens the structure.
For high-rise construction projects with a greater budget, contractors use steel- or aluminum-based scaffolding structures, which are stronger and longer-lasting. Aluminum is now taking over as the metal of choice for scaffolding as it’s lighter than steel and allows for scaffold components to be lifted and quickly assembled with greater ease. The one disadvantage of using aluminum for use in scaffolding is that it is expensive
Metallic scaffolds can take many forms, depending on the workers’ requirements for a task. Different scaffolds are used for bricklaying and masonry, each with specifications, to allow greater ease of access.
Common types of scaffolding range from:
Tube-and-clamp scaffolds and system-based scaffolds offer flexibility in shape for non-linear buildings.
For higher-rise projects, construction companies may harness tower-based scaffolds such as mast-climbing platforms or crank-up scaffolds.
As developments continue to take place in the global construction industry, newer and newer types of scaffolds are being devised. There are also different systems of classifications, where often different terms are applied for similar kinds of scaffolds.
To learn more about the major types of scaffolding used in construction today, read this article.
Scaffolding is preferred over extendable ladders or rope-based harnesses due to the safety and efficiency it offers. When properly installed, scaffolding fulfills some of the following functions:
Scaffolding provides a solid and secure platform for construction workers. Mandatory safety standards require scaffolding to be fitted with guardrails and toe boards that work to prevent falls and accidents.
The use of scaffolding across construction allows for it to be expanded to reach any height, while ladders and crane equipment are limited to how high they can carry workers.
Scaffolding allows multiple workers to work together on one part of a building, which increases the speed of completing tasks such as installing windows, laying bricks, painting and plastering walls — and cuts down costs for the contractor. Scaffolding also allows workers direct access to the part of the building they are working on, which also helps speed up their work.
Scaffolding is often used to hold heavy building materials such as bricks or concrete blocks.
It is also referred to in technical terms as:
o Shoring is the name given to scaffolding when it is used to bolster unstable portions of a building while it is being repaired or renovated.
o Formwork is the name given to scaffolding when it is used to support temporary structures built to hold liquid concrete before it has solidified to stand on its own.
Scaffolding also guarantees the safety of the public areas surrounding a building that is under-construction. While ladders and rope harnesses leave both workers and nearby pedestrians vulnerable, trained workers who properly use scaffolds are able to keep pedestrians and public property safe from damage caused by tools and materials falling from a great height.
Buildings today are huge and complex architectural projects, which need scaffolding in place before construction can start. This scaffolding not only assists with the edifice, but also protects pedestrian traffic from injury. While scaffolding works to provide safe support and access to the various parts of the building, it is, in itself a big construct. Therefore, much like the specialized masons, electricians and engineers, working on the building, it too requires a set of professionals to erect.