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Modern architecture and the height safety system

Architecture is an art form. In today’s modern buildings, architects and designers focus on aesthetics, using materials, treatments, complex shapes and cantilevered elements to push the boundaries, designing for the eyes of the beholder. However, they also have a duty to incorporate height safety, rope access and fall protection systems that minimise or eliminate the hazards associated with access to the structure that is critical for ongoing maintenance over the life of the building. Unfortunately, these solutions are often overlooked and not thoroughly investigated during the architectural design phase. The detail is often an afterthought, not specified and left to the contractor to provide a compliant safety system to Australian Standards. Retrofitting a bolt-on height safety system at the completion of works can be problematic, resulting in a solution that often falls short of optimal, compromising the designer’s vision and overall aesthetics.

“The job of the architect today is to create beautiful buildings. That’s all”

– Philip Johnson –

Safety by design

One of the best ways to prevent injuries and fatalities in the workplace is to eliminate or control the risk at the design or planning stage. For architects and designers, this is the best stage to look at height safety and access. It ensures the inclusion of functional fall prevention and safe access for those working at height who are required to provide ongoing maintenance, service and repair work. Most importantly, however, it allows planners to incorporate these systems into the structure, concealing them so as to compliment and not compromise their designs and the building’s street and eye appeal.

When architects and designers consult with height safety professionals at the design stage to incorporate and specify the optimal solution that complements their design, everything falls into place, and the magic happens.

The art of concealment

An excellent example of calling in the experts at the design stage is the Quay Quarter Tower, an iconic 50-storey commercial office development located in the heart of Sydney. The striking building with a twist now transforms the city skyline with its geometric cantilevered overhang designed to maximise harbour views from the Opera House to the Harbour Bridge as it climbs.

An overarching requirement associated with this project was the integration of an unobtrusive safety system, a solution that facilitated safe and efficient rope access for facade maintenance and window cleaning. With aesthetics at the forefront of this innovative building design, a secure, compliant system that blended in with the clean, crisp architectural lines was called for.

Calling in the experts early, at the design stage, paid dividends for the client, with all their requirements realised. As a result, a height safety system that is almost invisible to the naked eye now provides worker safety and functionality without visually impacting this one-of-a-kind skyscraper.

The system and installation …a collaborative approach

RIGCOM was appointed to design, supply and install the façade access maintenance and roof safety system for the Quay Quarter Tower project. Although there were many complex aspects to this design and installation, the fundamental requirement was to ensure the visible system components were inconspicuous and did not detract from the graceful architectural form.

The sophisticated design demanded a collaborative approach and incorporated system components from major OEMs to provide access to all parts of the facade requiring maintenance, and included:

Overhead Rail Systems – The external and internal rail systems provide a means for rope access technicians to gain access to the facade under the cantilevered soffits, as well as access to the ceiling and atrium voids.

SAYFA’s Raptor Rail was selected for the project due to the following reasons:

  • Facilitates concealment so as not to detract from the aesthetics of the building.
  • Its capacity to span between intermediates with fewer fixings.
  • High strength corrosion resistant aluminium construction.
  • Ability to be hidden within the soffit without impacting functionality.
  • Accommodates multiple users.
  • Australian manufacturer.

Installed internal and external concealed overhead rail systems

Walkways – Positioned along the ridge and Designed to blend in with the crown of the building, the customised powder-coated walkway provides safe access to the crown and roof area of the tower. It incorporates an integrated horizontal rail system for attachment of a personal fall arrest system; and anchors that allow rope access technicians to abseil down the complex louvred roof.

HI-RISE, a specialist consulting and engineering company, was used for several reasons, including:

  • A strong reputation in the marketplace for its design capabilities and ability to produce customised modelled CAD drawings that allow clients to understand the systems, access points, load calculations and design outcomes.
  • Expertise in the fabrication of bespoke walkway solutions, height safety and fall protection systems.
  • Australian manufacturer.

Crown Walkway installation

Cable systems – Designed for fall restraint while accessing the gutters, the SAFYA TRAVEL8 static line system follows the contours of the box gutter around the perimeter of the crown, providing multiple users with continuous attachment and fall protection.

Ladder and vertical systems – The ladder system provides access to the crown walkway and incorporates a vertical rail system for fall protection during use. The SKYTAC system by SKYLOTEC was selected for its ability to provide uninterrupted safety when climbing ladders without the hassle of re-hooking anchors.

Davit arms and bases – The davit arms provide a ‘High Direction’ device for rope access technicians to set their ropes above balustrades and be free from obstructions below. The custom-fabricated davit arms from HI-RISE are mobile and can be stored out of visual sight, while the bases are fixed to the slab undetected under the removable decking.

To complement the system, pigtails, deviation anchors and under-hang anchors were also incorporated into the design and installed in strategic locations throughout Quay Quarter Tower.

RIGCOM …protecting life, sustaining assets

Safety is our passion. RIGCOM was proud to be commissioned to design, supply and install the facade access maintenance and roof system and to be a part of the team that worked to bring this iconic construction project to life.

RIGCOM is an Australian-owned and operated height safety engineering company that designs, manufactures and installs bespoke height access systems as well as rope access installation, service and remediation works. Established in 2009, RIGCOM has a dedicated team working across branches in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne with the ability to provide our services on a national basis.

Call us for more information or to discuss your height safety and access requirements.