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Working At Height: Atop Architectural Icons


Working at height on the Shard

If you work at height in one of the UK’s cities, such as Newcastle, Liverpool or London, you will be no stranger to the tall structures and skyscrapers that dot the skylines. Regardless of whether you wash the top floor windows, work aloft on construction sites or simply have a head for heights, our vertical world is impressive.

There are adventurous urban architects the world over who compete to imagine and create the tallest, most breath-taking structures, and they all have their own claims to fame. Of course, no matter how much IPAF training you have, some of these buildings will be a bit too much to stomach, but they are certainly worth a nod.

The Shard

Close to home, there is the Shard in London. This glass tower stands at 306 metres; a height that makes it Western Europe’s tallest building. And what is so impressive about such a structure to those who work at height all day long?

Well, there are 11,000 glass panels surrounding this architectural gem, and rightly so considering how it is modelled on a shard of glass. These 11,000 glass panels actually cover an area of 56,000 metres square. The windows are just the tip of the iceberg though.

Whilst some will never make it to the viewing decks on the 68th, 69th and 72nd floors, the height doesn’t bother everyone; following in the footsteps of fearless two-legged workmen, a fox, now known as Romeo, made his way to the 72nd floor and moved in for a while.

For non-foxes, there are lifts to the top, so you don’t have to contend with all those stairs; 306 flights to be precise. Of course, with that much distance to carry, it is not surprising that the lifts fly at an average speed of 6 metres per second. Not just impressive for their speeds though, the 44 lifts in the Shard even include dizzying double-decker designs.

Burj Khalifa

Further afield now. At a whopping 828 metres in height, with over 160 storeys, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world. In fact, its elevators have the longest distance to travel in the world, with the service elevator alone holding the title of the world’s tallest.

This phenomenal tower has a total of 54 elevators which carry visitors and residents up and down the various floors at an impressive speed of 40mph; faster than you’d be able to get around residential streets in the UK!

With good pair of binoculars, you can see the whole of Dubai from the observation deck of the tower, which is well worth the trek, and more than enough reason to brave the great heights of the Burj Khalifa.

Imagine being one of the 12,000 workers on site during construction; hanging hundreds of metres above the safety of the ground…Would you be confident working at such heights? Do you have the appropriate training to be able to do so safely?

110,000 tonnes of concrete and 55,000 tonnes of steel rebar required 22 million man hours in order to construct this icon. Think what it would be like, working those kinds of hours, lugging those materials up hundreds of floors and working not only at great height, but also in great heat.

The 206 storeys are home to around 24,000 windows – all of which need cleaning. Naturally, this is pretty much a full-time job, and working solidly, it could take up to three months to do. Of course, by the time you finish the job, you’re ready to start again. And as if the task of actually cleaning the windows wasn’t enough, the dizzying heights at which you’d be doing it are enough to make you think twice.

Now, these two stunning examples of architecture reaching new heights are but a small sample of what our urban landscapes offer. There are plenty of towns and cities with an above-eye-level world to explore, build and maintain. To do so though, you need to take all of the necessary precautions and ensure you put health and safety first.

You can start with some of our training courses, to build foundation knowledge, then work on gaining more practical understanding and experience.