Scaffoldings are an essential component of infrastructure developments. However, while some might think that building platforms are a modern innovation, there is a lot of evidence suggesting the contrary. While archaic examples were rudimentary and nowhere near as developed or regulated as contemporary scenarios, they were used as a safety precaution. Indeed, if you’re interested in the history of scaffoldings or anything relating to building platform regulations, then we recommend reading the following article!
Where did it all begin?
The earliest signs of the existence of scaffoldings date back almost 17 000 years. In paleolithic cave paintings in Lascaux, France, small sockets in the wall suggest that some form of building system was developed to allow for the painting of ceilings.
Likewise, the Berlin Foundry Cup is a red-figure vase painting that reflects the early use of scaffoldings in Ancient Greece during the early 5th century BC. There is other evidence confirming that ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Nubians used building platforms and towers to assist in constructing large-scale infrastructure. Because of the historical period, these building towers were often made from wood and secured using rope knots.
The 20th century
The early 20th century saw a revolutionising of scaffoldings, both in terms of structure, design and regulation. Daniel Palmer Jones and David Henry Jones (brothers) were instrumental in designing safe building platforms for high-rise construction. However, both men were critical in the early formation of safety standards and regulatory practices relating to building platforms.
In 1913, Daniel Palmer Jones patented a device he called the “Scaffixer” a coupling device designed to support labourers when working on tall buildings. Later that year, the device received extensive publicity when Palmer Jones’ construction company was commissioned to coordinate Buckingham Palace’s reconstruction. Six years later, Palmer Jones followed up the Scaffixer with a new prototype he called the “Universal Coupler”. This device remains the industry standard over 100 years later!
Scaffoldings used today – how are they different?
Following Palmer Jones’ seminal invention, building platforms have rapidly developed in terms of construction and materials used. These days, the most basic building towers consist of tubes, couplers and boards. The tubes are usually made from steel or aluminium to ensure maximum strength and stability. If steel is used, it is recommended that the metal be galvanised, which means the metal is coated with an outer layer of zinc. This increases the durability of the metal and overall safety of the users.
The boards of scaffoldings are usually made from seasoned wood and vary in thickness (based on the users’ specific needs). Each end of the panels is equipped with metal hoops (hoop irons), which display the manufacturing company’s name. Modern building platforms come fitted with couplers, which are fittings that hold the tubes together. Scaffoldings are also supported with base plates, ropes, ladder, the ledger, the transom and a range of other components.
When establishing your building platforms (whether it be for private residential use or commercial use), there are many vital safety standards you must abide by. Firstly, the foundations must be flat and safe. Uneven ground is a potential hazard, and many safety inspectors will not approve your platform if it is not on safe ground.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t view your building platforms as independent structures – they are very much an extended element of the building. To ensure maximum stability, framework ties should be added to the adjacent building and fixed to the platform. “Through ties” can be attached via open structures, like windows and verandas, while “box ties” are usually attached to the platform via pillars.