Construction scaffoldings can be unpleasant at sight and very noisy, besides the fact that they can last many years depending on construction schedules and type of works.
What if we could reduce noise pollution from the site, diminish carbon emissions and make the site on construction look more attractive while work is on going? Arup studio in collaboration with Green Fortune, a Swedish Living Wall manufacturer company, has developed an interesting idea to turn this into a reality.
The first building, that is currently be tested, is located in the very heart of London, Mayfair district. St Mark’s building, an historical church I Grade listed, is owned by Grosvenor, a long lasting property group, which operates in cities around the world. The aim of the project is to transform the existing building into new retail and community space by 2017.
While the renovation works are being carried out on site, a green wall made of a mixture of flowers, grasses and strawberries plants has being installed as part of the scaffolding with a total surface of 80 m2. The visual impact of the construction works has been drastically reduced and according to Arup the noise pollution has the potential to diminish by at least 10 decibel. The wall has been also fits with sensors to monitor the actual reduction in air pollution, noise levels and temperature, so that as the construction progresses data can collected analysed.
Mark Tredwell from Grosvenor company is very proud of this initiative:
‘This is a great initiative and is in line with our long-term ambition to improve the environmental sustainability of the buildings across our London estate, reducing emissions by 50% by 2030. As the estate continues to adapt and evolve we want to ensure that the impact on the community is positive. As well as reducing air pollution, we hope the living wall will introduce a rich biodiversity to Mayfair and encourage people to linger in the area’.
This is something that can actually start a new era for the approach to construction scaffolding design, which so far has been solely seen responding to functionality and logistics of the site. As energy efficiency and carbon reduction in the built environment are becoming more mainstream than ever, it is quite evident as now the design of temporary site works need to address those issues as well and cannot dismiss the discussion.
Obviously, Health and Safety requirements on site are main reason of concern for new developments projects and the idea of having something, like a green “barrier” that could shade the site or even represents an obstacle to the work flow and communication on site, poses some challenges.
The OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration of USA questions the practicality of the initiative, arguing:
‘materials are often handed or hoisted up to workers through the scaffold openings, so anything blocking vision or movement could pose a danger to both material handlers and workers. Damage to the plant wall could also create hazardous falling debris….Also, OSHA inspectors would likely balk at not being able to assess visually the current state of the scaffold’s setup and the fall-protection equipment employees are required to utilize while working at high levels’.
Considering the specific nature of the site currently being tested, which is a historic renovation project with clearly other dynamics than a new build work site, the Living Wall scaffolding faces less challenges and a maybe easier experience.
However, the relevant aspect of this pioneer initiative is that has finally brought to discussion the attitude and approach used so far in the regards to construction scaffolding design and site organisation, questioning whether we should look deeper into the carbon emissions of the temporary sites, as well as their impact on the health of the local residents and workers.