Creative Solutions for Works of Art-itecture
When the building itself is a work of art, the scaffolding and access solutions often have to be just as creative.
Solid support for a north-pointing tower
Case in point: the Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD) at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The structure is so dramatic it couldn’t support its own weight until it was nearly completed. The most dynamic feature of the academy’s gleaming new building is a 105-foot-tall tower made of 460 tons of steel and glass. The tower leans 39 degrees north, so when you enter and look up, the North Star is perfectly framed in the glass panels of the roof. Polaris is there as a symbol of unwavering direction—a reminder of the Center’s purpose—and a nod to early aviators for whom the celestial marker was a vital tool for night navigation.
To adapt to the challenge of the unique structure, general contractors ECC and GH Phipps brought in an access partner to provide scaffolding and shoring that they knew had the engineering expertise, project management experience and seamless execution to rise to the occasion: BrandSafway.
To address the building’s distinctive shape, each level of scaffolding needed to be 5 feet 10 inches above the previous level. Instead of adding and subtracting levels as others proposed to do, BrandSafway created custom scaffolding specially adapted to fit. Another challenge was that vertically-oriented scaffolding had to be interlaced with the building’s diagonally-oriented steel structure. One side of a scaffolding platform was outside the building, while the other side of the same platform was inside, meaning the interwoven supports had to be carefully removed as the structure was completed.
Project Manager Gaer Sandager, of BrandSafway’s Denver branch office, noted that the skill and flexibility of the BrandSafway team was critical to the project’s incident-free completion. “Our team was on site full time from day one,” he said. “We were constantly fine-tuning our schedule to coordinate with the steel workers on site.”
Inspired access in the Steel City skyline
Since 1988, the Highmark building’s unique pyramidal peak has been a constant presence reigning over downtown Pittsburgh. What else has been a constant in the area? The sun, wind, rain and snow. While the building’s Spanish pink granite exterior panels may be ageless, the caulk between them is not.
Removing the old caulk and adding the new was the easy part, while giving the workers something to stand on was the real challenge; nothing could rest on the 70-foot pyramid’s granite surface, and the nearest supports for scaffolding were only on the building’s corners 60 feet below and 42 feet apart. Between those corners was a sheer drop of eight stories.
Beyond that was a very practical planning challenge: access to the roof required using a freight elevator, going through a conference room and then climbing a few flights of stairs. This limited all equipment to a maximum of 11 feet long, and all the pieces (12 semi loads) had to be carried by hand the last few flights of stairs in the exact order the equipment was to be installed.
The solution was the HAKI® truss system, HAKISPAN 750®. The HAKI® system allows the creation of durable spans from modular segments that can be carried and placed by hand and go together easily with systematic lacing and bracing. The trusses spanned the gaps between the building’s corners, and the scaffolding was built upward and then inward to conform to the pyramid without touching it.
The access setup also included a hoist and a catwalk. As the job progressed, the catwalk was dismantled and re-assembled at the next level together with the hoist. Custom safety netting and dropped-object protection panels helped protect workers above and pedestrians below.
Much of the work took place just outside the windows of the board room and other VIP work spaces, yet there were no complaints about noise or other distractions. From the words of John Norbut, facilities and project manager for Highmark: “This is a very unique building, and BrandSafway did a fabulous job.”