When it comes to construction hoists, GB Access is your friend in high places. Lee Jones reports.
Attitudes to safety on site have been transformed in recent years, and it is a culture that is reflected in a dramatic reduction in the figures for injuries and fatalities. As a consequence, certain classes of equipment have reaped their own rewards, and construction hoists are amongst them. Thanks to the likes of manual handling regulations it is no longer deemed acceptable for construction workers to be struggling with materials up multiple flights of stairs, whilst the productivity benefits of goods and passenger carrying equipment are now well established. Indeed, where previously materials handling in tall buildings might have been the preserve of a tower crane, today it is the hoist that is in the ascendancy. These machines are now being used to move cladding, for example, where it is then fitted from the inside, dramatically improving safety for the installer.
With an expanding market, advancements in this class of construction plant have equally gone a long way to progressing the concept. Historically, a two tonne unit might have been at the heavier end of the spectrum but today a 3 tonne capacity would be deemed the industry standard. “Everybody wants bigger and faster,” explains GB Access Director, Nigel Bland, “and that’s what we are delivering. We have machines that can achieve 90 metres a minute, compared to just 40 metres just a few years ago, for example.”
In the days when it was more common for construction companies to be equipped with its own extensive stock of machinery, GB Access originally thrived as a labour only firm, installing and dismantling main contractors’ equipment. That would evolve into supplying its own range of hoists, and the company can now supply the latest in Alimak and STROS units from its Peterborough depot, with a fleet that stands at over 400 strong.
“We can supply everything from 500kg goods hoists all the way up to a 5 tonne passenger example,” continues Nigel. “Not only that but we also have a rapidly expanding bespoke service. Where it is not feasible to attach anything to the outside of the building during the construction phase, it is becoming increasing common for us to install in lift shafts, for instance. We’ll modify what we have in the fleet for that purpose and have an in-house fabrication workshop to deliver a specific solution to our clients.”
The architects of multi storey structures are increasingly incorporating complex shapes into their designs, and no longer can a hoist simply look to go up and into a building. At Berkeley Group’s Valencia project at 250 City Road Islington, the GB Access team designed and built two bespoke bridges in order to gain entry from the hoist. Not only that but the lifting and access specialist is also heavily involved in industrial hoists for the maintenance of the likes of power stations and refineries, with GB Access equipment presently seeing service at Sellafield and Sizewell.
It is A-Plant’s avowed ambition to be a one stop shop for its clients and the acquisition of GB Access in 2015 was a part of that strategy. Since then more than £7m has been invested in new technologies, nearly doubling the fleet from 240 to 418. In parallel, employment levels have increased from over sixty to 110 in just a four year timeframe. The most recent equipment additions include two Alimak 650 25/50 twin cage contruction hoists, and these 2m wide, 5m long platform machine – with a 2 ½ tonne capacity – have already found favour with the developers of the prestigious Marble Arch Place development in London.
That was quickly followed by the delivery of a new arctic unit, featuring a custom-built HIAB crane and step frame trailer designed to enable GB Access to carry loads up to 16,000kg – almost doubling the payload of the company’s existing HIAB rigid lorries.
Concludes Nigel: “As a company we have 30 years of experience in the hoist business and that’s crucial to our success. Anyone can buy equipment – and we do ensure that we have the very best on our fleet – but what we can offer is a personnel who know this business intimately, and that’s priceless for our clients.”