When contractor RG Group won the £23m contract to build Symons House, a 21-storey student accommodation block in Leeds, one of its first priorities was to get GTI, a specialist installer of personnel and goods hoists on board.
While unusual, its reasoning was simple: the reinforced concrete frame building is due for completion in January 2020 and it would be difficult to meet that deadline if staff and materials had to be transported using conventional hoists. RG Group also has an unusual relationship with GTI – it is the company’s only rental customer, so it knew it could rely upon undivided attention.
“The minimal build time meant that the hoists were a critical piece of kit to achieving the speed of construction necessary,” explains RG Group project manager James Smith. “If we used conventional hoists on the side of the building then we’d need two of them. We identified logistics as a key issue back in December 2017, before we’d even started demolishing the office block that was on the site.”
RG Group – and this particular project – are also key to GTI’s business development as the latter, hitherto a specialist in the installation, maintenance and inspection of rack-and-pinion hoists, entered the rental market purely at its client’s request.
“We see our USP as delivering exactly what the customer needs, rather than steering them towards what we have lying around the yard,” says GTI co-founder Scott Grant, a veteran of the rack and pinion industry. “So, we researched alternatives and presented them for consideration.”
The answer came in the form of a GEDA 3700 Z/ZP, a German-made hoist that had never been used in the UK before. And, since it was being specified right from the start, it could be integrated into the whole building design using CAD. As Smith explains, the GEDA 3700 Z/ZP has major advantages in terms of speed, size and it’s positioning within the building envelope.
“The hoist has an astronomical load capacity of 3.4 tonnes so it can take a whole pallet of plasterboard in one go as it weighs two tonnes – a conventional hoist would just be swamped,” says Smith. “And it’s fast too. It can go from the ground to level 21 in just 2.5 minutes if it’s only carrying materials and five minutes if it’s taking people up in a man-riding cage,” he says.
“And the hoist is in the centre, the core of the building, rather than the side so we can use it as a movable platform and bring in materials by crane at whatever level we need – just demount the roof and bring them in.”
Smith gives the example of the prefabricated bathroom pods that are being fitted. These weigh 360kg each and measure approximately 2m x 1.3m which is well within the dimensions of the hoist’s 3.4m x 2.9m platform. These pods will be craned in and then manoeuvred into place with a pallet truck. He says incorporating the hoist into the core of the building rather than on the side has doubled the speed at which the floors can be laid and personnel can start working.
“The core of the building goes up ahead of the frame and, in this system, the hoist goes up at the same time. Using the conventional method, with a concrete framed building like this, the hoist would be three of four floors behind. With this method, the hoist is there as soon as the floor is completed,” Smith explains.
“There’s also less work involved at the end of the project when you take the hoist down because it’s in the core. If you had hoists attached to the side of the building you would have to then fit out two whole bedrooms for each floor, which involves plasterboard, electrics and plumbing and would really slow down the building programme.”
The company is hoping to use the same hoist on two other Leeds projects that are being worked up. One, for Olympian, is a 36-storey purpose-built student accommodation scheme on the site of a former office block known as Hume House in Leeds City Centre.
Scott Grant is certainly hoping these projects will come to fruition as the 52-week rental of Symons House will not pay off the cost of the GEDA-3700. But he does not seem unduly worried.
“It’s a huge investment to cover this cost but I’ve already had three other enquiries for a machine of the same capacity so that’s strengthened my faith in our decision to buy this model. I’m sure that with the speed and flexibility that it offers it will soon become ‘new normal,'” he says. “Two of those enquiries came from other hoist rental companies.”