The solution using mast climbing work platforms was three or four times cheaper than the scaffolding

The solution using mast climbing work platforms was three or four times cheaper than the scaffolding option, says Kevin O’Shea.

At the International Powered Access Federation's 2009 Summit in Dublin, Ireland, last year Kevin O'Shea of Atlanta-based Mastclimbers LLC gave a presentation on the potential for increased profit through inventive use of mast climbing work platforms. Here, he gives some examples.

My assertion in Dublin that you can still get paid for your experience and knowledge in the mast climber business sparked some interest. I have had many telephone calls and emails since asking for examples of this approach, so here I provide details of two recent projects where no other form of powered access could provide a viable solution, and where the complexity of the project demanded 'out of the box' thinking.

LeBonheur Children's Hospital, Memphis, TN

The project, a 14 storey tower on top of a five storey building, presented a number of challenges. In order to provide access to the 14 storey tower the mast climbers had to be placed on the fifth floor roof, which was covered in a membrane 450mm thick. Second, the normal solution, installing shoring posts under each unit and shoring down through all five levels to ground, wasn't an option. The first and second floors were in an almost finished state, with suspended ceilings pipework, partitioning etc already in place.

Working with a local structural engineer, we came up with a solution to keep everyone happy. The GC, Skanska, cut the membrane roof at each position where a mast climber was to be placed, and they poured a concrete pad for the base to sit on. I then devised a support system underneath the pad, consisting of shoring posts down through one floor level, resting on steel I-beams, which were long enough to transfer the whole load, around 12,000kg per unit, onto the main structural beams in the building. Once I devised the system, I gave the design to the structural engineer, who then provided the relevant proof calculations that the system would work, and we had a winner.

This kind of solution isn't price sensitive in the same way that purely rental is. The only option to this solution was fixed scaffolding, which would have taken forever to erect; would have been much more problematic to use; and would have cost three or four times the price.

The Mayo Building, Rochester, MN

Rochester MN, is an impressive city of huge brick and stone buildings and incredible architecture. The Mayo building, one of a large portfolio owned by the prestigious Mayo Health Care Organization, required remedial work. The support brackets holding stone panels onto the building were corroding to a concerning level of deterioration, so the panels, each weighing around 2,500kg, had to be removed, reinforced, and replaced.

We had to design a 'horseshoe shaped' platform, which would all move as one unit, and we were restricted to tying in to the small corner areas on the structure. In addition, we had to provide capacity on the platform for three or four personnel, assisted by a crane, to remove the panels, reinforce the support brackets, and replace when complete. Working with the manufacturer, Fraco, we designed a system which was perfect for the job, using standard components.

Tom Fee, Construction Superintendent for Building Restoration Corporation, was delighted with the results; "Having never used mast climbers before, we were obviously apprehensive, but after some intensive training we were a lot more confident. In fact, two weeks later no one wanted to come down; we had work benches, power tools, tool boxes, and equipment all in the platform, and productivity was fantastic.

"Eventually we even installed a portable toilet on the platform because the personnel on the platform didn't want to come down, they were extremely comfortable working from the mast climber. In fact they even used the crane arm on the unit to hoist up lunch!"

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