Technology And Innovation In Tower Cranes
The key design elements of tower cranes have remained largely unchanged for many decades. With proper maintenance and repair, they can have a long lifespan – so cranes have not typically been at the forefront of innovation in the construction industry.
In recent years however, changes in the construction sector and increasing improvements in health and safety have driven innovation in tower crane technology. This has resulted in higher levels of safety as well as better productivity and the ability to work in more challenging environments.
The UK tower crane sector is unique for several reasons. As a small country with increasingly urbanised areas, land space is at a premium. As a result, there is pressure to construct buildings on a very small footprint, with limited space surrounding them.
At the same time, the UK is the only country in Europe that has Air Rights Regulations controlling the over-sailing of properties, creating more unique requirements for tower cranes. Edward Seager, Managing Director of Bennetts Cranes, a company that specialises in the sale and hire of tower cranes in the UK, says that manufacturers are responding to the need within the industry for new technology and health and safety innovations to make building quicker, easier and safer.
“As the years have passed, there has been an increasing demand for taller buildings, on smaller urban sites, which need to be built quickly and to tight budgets. The government is under pressure to build more homes and construction companies are under pressure to build them quicker and to make a profit in an industry with very small margins,” said Mr Seager.
“The key therefore is to ensure all equipment on site is working efficiently and plays a part in the smooth building process. The global tower crane market is focused on very large saddle jib cranes, however we are pleased to work with manufacturers that have been able to design and build new crane models to suit the different needs of the UK market.”
Bennetts Cranes has worked closely with Italian manufacturer Raimondi Cranes, for which they are an exclusive dealer, to pass on requirements and encourage the release of new models.
Last year Raimondi released two new tower cranes for the British market: the LR 330, a heavy lifting capacity luffing jib crane, which is well-suited to new builds that are using the pre-cast build method, and the LRH 174, its first hydraulic luffing jib tower crane with a short out-of-service radius.
Mr Seager said: “We worked closely with Raimondi on requirements. The LRH 174 is an excellent city tower crane. The jib can be parked in free slew at close to vertical, which means it won’t over-sail nearby properties.”
At the same time, busy urban sites require better anti-collision and safety equipment to ensure they can work safely. A recent innovation that is starting to be put into use more frequently on sites is crane hook camera technology to avoid blind spots for the driver and provide a better view of the load from the cab.
Bennetts Cranes uses BlokCam technology on specific sites. These are heavy duty magnetic cameras on the hooks of cranes, with a live feed to the crane driver. Uptake on this equipment is increasing, demonstrating that the construction sector is moving towards the use of more technology-based safety innovations.