30 St Mary’s Axe (The Gherkin) - Bespoke Access Solution

SCX Special Projects created a completely unique access solution for the famous ‘Gherkin’ building in the centre of London.

Building Maintenance Units (BMUs), used to provide access for cleaning and light maintenance of large buildings’ facades, usually run on tracks around the roof, where they can be stored out of site when not in use. With no roof to the totally unique torpedo-shaped Gherkin, an equally unique access solution was required; and it had to be a solution that would not compromise the appearance of the building.

This posed a challenge that many considered too difficult; but not SCX Special Projects. The final solution, in order to access the full external facade of the 160m high building as well as the conical ceiling of the top floor restaurant, comprises of three bespoke machines and some innovative engineering.

Supports are embedded into the building structure, allowing rails to circumnavigate the facade at level 36. Power is supplied via a double busbar system installed on the inner edge of the rails out of view.

A horizontally telescopic BMU accesses the main body of the facade by lowering an access cradle down the side of the building. The telescopic function, of up to 10m, enables the cradle to negotiate the convex shape of the building.

A five-stage hydraulic boom, with a maximum reach of 33m then accesses the very top of the external facade. A rotating powered trolley keeps the machine facing towards the building as it travels around the circumference.

A transfer carriage retracts the machines back inside a garage area hidden from view by roller shutter doors. Articulated wheels allow the machines to run on both the circular rails and the straight rails as they enter the garage and safety edge and infra red detectors prevent door closure on any person or machinery.

Both cradles are fitted with manual recovery winches for use in a power failure, and a rescue trolley can be deployed along the rails to collect the machines in the unlikely event of a breakdown.

The internal conical wall/ceiling of the top floor restaurant is accessed via a lifting table and slewing hydraulic boom, which is articulated to keep the cradle level in all boom orientations. The system is installed below the floor and is seamlessly covered by the floor panels when not in use.

A glass replacement unit engages with the external cradles for removal and installation of individual 400kg diamond-shaped glass panels using vacuum technology.

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SCX Special Projects Ltd
Roman Ridge Road,
Sheffield, S9 1GA
Tel: +44 (0)114 243 1142
Email: [email protected]