Is it Spiderman or a Surveyor? Abeseiling Versus Scaffolding

25th May 2021

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Is it Spiderman or a Surveyor? Abeseiling Versus Scaffolding

Visit any town or city and you will see scaffolding popping up here there and everywhere. It is the most familiar access option when working on any building with those hard-to-reach areas. Scaffolding is often the go to option offering a safe and trusted access method, but could there be a better option?

Building owners or managers hold the responsibility of ensuring that their properties are well maintained and safe for passers-by and building users. Making sure that bay window, balcony, signage and facias don’t drop on passers by and that windows are wind and water tight is an essential part of ongoing maintenance. But what happens when your building is too tall for ladders? In these circumstances checking out defects safely becomes more complicated and often more costly.

For many scaffolding is the go to option. This approach has stood the test of time reaching those hard to reach places for centuries. The bespoke structures that can be created from hollow metal tubes allow enables access to older, architecturally complex buildings and areas at height.

However not all buildings projects require or in fact are best served using this method. Firstly, its disruptive nature can make it unpopular or even prohibitive especially when requiring road closures or limiting street access. Secondly some scaffolding structures require it to be mechanically fixed to the building which may not be possible, at the very least leave unsightly repair marks or may create damage beyond repair to decorative, specialised or fragile surfaces. In these circumstances this option seem like a step too far especially when any maintenace or repair work is small scale or of a small value.

So where do you go when scaffolding isn’t ticking the boxes?

The use of Mobile Elevating Platforms (MEWPS) are commonplace and offer a cost effective solution in many cases. With their speedy set up and not being restricted to any fixed location MEWPS are often the access of choice when productivity and flexibility are key. This option works well on small scale projects with short programmes. However, MEWPS can be limited by ground conditions, wind loads and the mechanical limitations of the platform- so not ideal on the high rise buildings and windy shores of the South coast.

The Third way- Introducing the Spidey Surveyor.

As the construction industry is forever innovating, rope access has begun to come to the fore as a safe, cheap, fast and flexible option allowing contractors access to all areas. Here at MacConvilles we are always up for a challenge and a new experience so whether it be for charity or work abseiling/ rope access has become just another tool in our surveying box.

With Speed, in construction work programmes often rating as a key factors for tender and execution of a contract, rope access can be a very attractive option. Rope Access lead time in comparison to scaffolding, in most cases, is a few days for the anchor points and ropes to be set prior to use.  Also, during the contract term the time required for alterations can be a matter of minutes compared to scaffolding which requires additional manpower and can be a lengthy process. A further consideration is reactive maintenance where rope access technicians can be on site and in position in a matter of hours (best case) or days. Scaffolding may require permits, and long erection times.

Cost may not be a primary driver but as they say ‘every penny counts  With no erection costs and rope access operatives undertaking any works initial lower costs can allow you to budget in a larger scope of works.

Safety is always a must and working at height comes with its own inherent risk. Scaffolders require qualifications to undertake the works as do rope access personnel who undertake complex training under the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA).  So whatever option you plum for you can be assured that safety and risk have been carefully considered.

It is important to note that despite the benefits of rope access each individual project has individual planning requirements and rope access may not suitable. But if your project seems to fit the bill come and talk to us.

Meet Euan our ‘Surveyor on a Rope’

Last year MacConvilles were asked to inspect the external expansion joints a on nine story city centre building.

The project was initially priced to include scaffolding, but the cost of the scaffolding was close to or more than 50% of the project value. Other options were investigated but by far rope access was the most attractive option on the grounds of speed, cost and reduced disruption.  the client was able to use savings made to undertake all required work under one contract instead of the phased approach that had been initially suggested.

With the reputation in the office for undertaking extreme challenges it was no surprise that I found myself on top of tall city building (with a magnificent view) attached to some rope. I was surprised at how easily the building façade could be accessed and the level of work that could be undertaken.  Working alongside the specialist rope access contractor, the inspection and repairs could be efficiently and safely completed without a scaffolding licence in sight.


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