Electric climbing system improving safety at Toronto construction site


By Don Procter

Special to Ontario Construction News

The Greater Toronto Area is proving a magnet for construction innovation especially in the city’s downtown where building activity is brisk and schedules are demanding.

To help meet deadlines, climbing formwork systems for concrete cores have made technological leaps in recent years.

A case in point is at 160 Front St. West, a 46-storey office tower under construction. Alliance Forming is employing an electric climbing system made by M-Tech. Global contractor Multiplex developed the M-Tech jumpform rig in-house.

Multiplex has been using the system on its tall building projects across Europe and the Middle East since the early 2000s. It is the first time the M-Tech system has been employed in downtown Toronto, says Nick Cheal, technical services manager, Multiplex.

Manufactured in Australia, the climber “jumps” a floor at a time, rather than climb it in segments as it typical of the performance of conventional hydraulic climbers, says Kevin Nagowski, project manager, Alliance Forming, the project’s forming contractor.

“It eliminates leading edges that create fall hazards when a floor is lifted in segments,” adds Denis Furlan, director of Alliance.

Work on the “completely enclosed system” is being performed by a crew of carpenters from Carpenters Local 27, Toronto. Horacio Leal, business representative of Local 27, says to see such stringent safety standards paid to a skilled carpentry crew “is always a plus.”

Tailored to structural steel towers over 25 storeys, the M-Tech climber features its motor and mechanicals in the top of the system, where it is accessible by tower crane for quick repairs, Nagowski points out. “You can change the main motor out in 10 minutes.”

The mechanical workings of hydraulic climbers are typically two floors below the top of the system, making for difficult access, he says.

Furlan adds that the electric climber’s fastening system is straightforward and eliminates the need for fastening bolts and others elements typically required for hydraulic climbers.

He says Alliance researched systems for the project for more than a year before selecting M-Tech. The climbing system was shipped in parts from Dubai, UAE.

At the 32-storey Scotiabank North Tower under construction on Bay and Adelaide Sts, Structform International Limited is using Doka equipment for the climbing core. The hydraulic climber is fast, reliable and safe in an area that is tight for space, says Leo Bahou, general superintendent, Structform.

Three integrated systems comprise Doka at the site. An SKE climber is specified for the core’s exterior walls, while a second climber is employed for the interior, A third and light-weight climber consists of X60 platforms which act as a windscreen and protect workers at the steel deck level.

It is the second large project for the Doka system in Toronto. The first was the recently completed CIBC Square where it was customized to complete 54 floors in 36 jumps, says Bahou.

“It was a phenomenal accomplishment,” he says, adding the climbing system was engineered by Structform and Doka to be reconfigured for the changes in the geometry of the concrete core.

Local 27’s Leal says a testament to the quality of the system and to the skillsets of the Local 27 crew on the job was that the work was done efficiently and without any health and safety infractions. “Our main concerns were met.”

At the Scotiabank North Tower, Doka has been tweaked by Structform and the engineering team “to improve the workability . . . to make it more effective. It has made it easier to train the (Local 27) carpenters how to use it.”

Bahou says while derivatives of the Doka climber are used elsewhere around the world, its application in Toronto has been “really unique.”

Also in downtown Toronto is Aluma Systems rail guided FCI Self Climbing System. The hydraulic climber carries the external coating panels for the concrete core of an 18-floor, 400,000 square foot office tower for Google at 65 King St. East in downtown Toronto.

“What is special about it is we don’t need to use tower cranes to do the core portion of the project,” says Joe Plantamura, general superintendent, Structform. “We don’t have to take the forms off, which is good because I would have no place to store them.”

Plantamura says the climber is less labor intensive than some others marketed. Eight carpenters from Local 27 are doing the work of what could take a dozen or more with some climbers.

It is the first time Plantamura has used the Aluma climber but he sees it having a place on future building projects. “As long as your foreman and tradespersons are construction savvy, it is pretty user friendly.”

Local 27’s Leal has witnessed significant improvements in climbing systems linked to a jump in worker production without a sacrifice in safety standards over the past 15-20 years.

Rocco Lotito, director of the Concrete Forming Association of Ontario (CFAO), sees the big projects and others like them in Toronto as testament to the challenges the association’s members embrace.

“In partnership with the Carpenters and the College of Carpenters even the most complex and challenging of projects are delivered safely and efficiently,” he says.

Mike Yorke, president of the Carpenters District Council of Ontario, adds that the innovative climbing systems are a response to Toronto’s place as a global leader in commercial real estate development. “These three systems are a great example of technology and innovation that is part of the growth of our industry.”

To keep up, he says training through the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades is constantly addressing new technologies to ensure that its workers are properly instructed in their operation. “Whatever new products are out there we want to take advantage of through training at the College.”


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