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D J plays a new one for McCarthy & Stone

Specialist D J Short Brickwork is making use of an unusual approach to Layher system scaffolding that is producing impressive benefits for care home giant McCarthy & Stone.

Britain’s ageing population means the demand for retirement housing is steadily increasing.

McCarthy & Stone specialises in retirement housebuilding, and despite a drop in profit this year that it attributed to the Brexit vote, the firm has had a number of strong trading years as it works to meet this demand.

One of the key considerations for these projects is speed: McCarthy & Stone needs to get the buildings opened and occupied as quickly as possible to start making revenue and securing a return on investment.

D J Short Brickwork is a specialist brickwork and scaffolding subcontractor based in Essex that currently works solely on projects for the retirement housebuilder.

“We’ve been associated with McCarthy & Stone since 1986 when my father did his first job for them,” says managing director Dominic Short. “In the last five years it’s just the direction I’ve gone in – they’ve had so much work, and they like what we do so much, that we’ve ended up working for one company.”

With speed so important to these projects, D J Short has embraced Layher system scaffolding, with benefits for both programme and safety – and the company has found an unusual application for the system, in addition to using it in the traditional way for external scaffolding and access.

Overlooked application

“We started using it over a year ago on projects in Bexhill-on-Sea and Walton-on-Thames,” Mr Short says.

“The way McCarthy & Stone used to do it, they’d put boards and bandstands up and then we’d have to protect all the leading edges with extra boards and bandstands. We ended up with so many of them, and so many handrails, that it was just turning into a nightmare. Then they used to take it down and put this horrible plastic decking in as fall protection.”

Instead, Mr Short suggested using Layher’s All Round system inside the buildings, building a birdcage scaffold that could double up as a crash deck.

“It serves all purposes – it’s an all-round working platform, with no leading edge issues at all, and the loadings are better so we can land in a lot more places than we could with a tube-and-fitting scaffold.

“Then once it’s finished we can use it many more ways. Before, we would take the boards and bandstands out and someone would turn up on site, and if they were late, they’d ask for them to go up again. When the slab company turns up, for example, they can walk on it safely and lay their beams.”

While this isn’t the first time the system has been used in this way, it’s not common practice.

“Every time you show it to someone they think it’s a new thing – it’s an overlooked application for it. We’re offering something that isn’t just a man crash-deck – it’s an all-trades, all-materials deck,” Mr Pike says.

Every trade benefits

Construction News is in Loughton, Essex, to visit one of the McCarthy & Stone sites. Here, D J Short has deployed the system: a 38-unit development called Poets Place, made up of one- and two-bedroom apartments for private sale to residents over the age of 60.

The sun is beating down as we walk around site, climbing up the scaffold, which is entirely free-standing and not tied into the structure, to clamber onto the roof and view the crash deck in place. “We take the walls up to 2.1 m and the crash deck goes in at 2 m – and then we strike and go up again when that’s done,” Mr Short says.

Layher UK managing director Sean Pike explains that the system offers extra benefits compared to traditional fall protection. “The advantage is that once it’s in, it’s in, and it protects people falling inwards as well as outwards,” he says.

“In terms of load capacity, depending on what bay size configuration is used, the worst case would mean you have a 7.5 kN load capacity. You can’t work off the plastic [fall protection] systems. If someone fell it would hold them, that’s about it, which is what they’re designed for, don’t get me wrong – but all trades can work off this, and very heavy materials can be stored on it.

“It’s an advantage because it helps to speed up the build process as well as being very safe – every trade gets a benefit from it.”

Adaptability advantage

McCarthy & Stone project manager Tom O’Rourke agrees, acknowledging the very swift progress being made on site. Two floors are virtually complete as we take a tour, despite work starting just five-and-a-half weeks earlier.

“The system is very adaptable, which means if we need to drop down just one portion of it for access, we can,” he says. “It would take a lot longer using traditional methods.”

Coupled with the system scaffold, the team is using Porotherm blocks, a clay block walling system that can be installed rapidly.

“It’s virtually like a timber frame build, a thin-joint system that goes up very quickly and goes hand-in-hand with the Layher,” Mr Short says. “We put in two lifts of scaffold in a ring right around the job, go inside and take the blockwork up the first lift, and put the birdcage in, so all your outside fall arrest is already there in place. It would take a lot longer in tube and fitting.”

The project is progressing according to plan, with the first occupations of flats due in August. “Our biggest challenge is the speed. They’ve got to hit their first occupations so everyone’s under pressure,” Mr Short says.

But with two systems – scaffold and blockwork – working in tandem, D J Short Brickwork is helping McCarthy & Stone keep to its rapid programme.

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