June 15, 2010

A challenging job site called for unique access and training solutions. Lindsay Anderson reports from St. Louis on an American first.

What appeared to be a dark blob lit up by numerous glowing pods on a recent weeknight was actually the Robert A. Young Federal Building (RAY) in St. Louis, MO with 16 lit-up mast climbing platforms working at night.

The RAY building is a 20-story office that houses multiple government agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The building was due for a refurbishment with new tuck pointing, lintel repair and all flashing replaced.

Atlanta-based Mastclimbers, LLC formed a joint venture with Missouri’s Goedecke Company and Superior Waterproofing & Restoration Co., Inc. in June 2010 to set up a unique access solution mostly seen utilized in Europe – two platforms on one mast.

Stack ’em

The RAY building was originally designed by architect Preston A. Bradshaw and built in 1931. It first served as a warehouse for the Terminal Railroad Association in St. Louis before it was bought by the federal government in 1941. In 1988, former President Ronald Regan renamed the building in honor of the local Democrat politician Robert A. Young III and subsequently it has become eligible to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

In order to start restoration, Superior Waterproofing, specialists in renovation, and Goedecke, a local access specialist, were in charge of designing a safe and productive system. “Normally, we would use swing stages on a building as such,” says Mark Klump, senior superintendent with Superior “But platforms were a better solution because of safety and lack of hazards.”

The group came up with a design idea of using one mast and two platforms working in tandem. “It’s a design from Europe and we wanted to implement it in the States,” Klump says.

Over three weeks in May, 16 Fraco ACT 8 electric units were installed on one wall covering 640 linear feet. The double-decked unites include full weather enclosures with concrete blankets on top of each to reflect the sun and heat, along with overhead and sidewalk protection. Each unit has a custom electric supply, dust extraction and light beam separation protection.

“We just wouldn’t be able to do this job with swing stages, it would weigh too much and take too long,” says Thomas Schmitt, president of Superior. “We did entertain scaffold tubes, but the platforms allow the guys to have everything in one place and then they don’t have to go through the building and bother people. Platforms are the only way I can get 40 men on a wall at one time.”


Coming up with a safe and productive access solution wasn’t the only challenge the companies came across. With the building occupied during early morning and afternoon hours, it was decided work had to take place at night to avoid disturbing workflow inside. To accommodate the workers, a nightshift starts at 3 p.m. and finishes at 11:15 p.m. when a stocking and cleanup crew then arrive onsite. Because of the evening hours, each platform had to be outfitted with floodlighting, giving the units that aforementioned glow.

“We also had to catch all the grinding coming out of the wall.” Klump says of the restoration work. “So we came up with a dustless grinding system. It captures a huge portion of the dust with a vacuum system.”

Lastly, to add to the complexity of the jobsite, some of the mast climbers had to be supported on ‘chair-stands’ to keep the units above low-level roofs which surround the bast of the building and to prevent the units from colliding when working on the same mast electronic beams and targets were mounted on all the units to cut the drive function when units get too close together.


With the European-styled working system in place for what many on the job site says is a “United States” first, the site also has another first.

The project was planned by International Powered Access Federation (IPAF)-trained personnel from Goedecke, mast climbers were erected by IPAF trained installers, training was carried about by an IPAF instructor and 56 employees of contractor Superior Waterproofing were trained as the first IPAF mast climber operators in the world, IPAF says, making it the first 100-percent IPAF site in North America.

“We take safety seriously here,” says Thomas Schmitt.

The entire project will take 15 months and should be completed by late fall 2011.