Demand for Hird’s largest glass vacuum lifters is being driven by architects’ continued love affair with glass and a more practical concern – the need to make modern buildings safe and secure.
Hird is a UK leader in the glass lifter hire industry in the supply of what it calls ‘super heavy glass lifters’, which are increasingly needed for modern building projects.
This trend is, in part, a result of improvements in glass manufacturing technology, allowing ever-larger sheets of glass to be created for use in construction, says Hird Director John Wilding.
Architects have taken up the challenge, and now want to use larger and larger pieces of structural glass in buildings – glass that is load bearing and contributes to the strength of the structure.
John Wilding said: “Architects are also in a race to make their buildings more eye-catching and impressive. So larger pieces of glass, and curved glass is increasingly common.
“At the same time, there are practical considerations, and one of the most pressing for large projects, often located in the centre of the world’s biggest cities, is security.”
Building standards established to ensure structures maintain their integrity during security incidents mean the glass has to be even thicker, tougher, and heavier.
Banks and other financial institutions may want to send out a message, by using glass, that they are modern and transparent – especially after the latest banking scandals – but security is a parallel concern.
John Wilding, who manages Hird’s Southern Depot at Redhill, in Surrey, said: “Over the last five years we have been monitoring this trend in glass installation, and have done all we can to be one step ahead of it.
“When architects come up with a new design, they expect curtain wall installers to be able to turn it into reality. Those contractors then come to us and expect us to have the equipment that lets them make it happen. And we do.”
A prime example is Hird’s new fin lifter. It has been exclusively manufactured for Hird to lift long glass fins, which are increasingly used in modern building design.
This adjustable fin lifter can be an eight in line glass vacuum lifter with a lifting capacity of 1,320kg. Or it can be extended to an impressive nine metres, with a capacity of 1,800kg.
The fin lifter came into service during 2015 and was immediately put to use on the Bloomberg London development – Bloomberg’s new London HQ and the largest office development in the Square Mile.
John Wilding explained: “One of our clients came to us and said, ‘We have a real design and installation challenge here, and we don’t have a solution right now.’ I was able to show them the fin lifter, which was perfect for the job.
“If we hadn’t invested in this technology, they would have been in a spot of bother, for sure. Any other solution would have taken longer and been more costly.”
The machine is the latest example of a pro-active approach taken by Hird to glass vacuum lifting technology – in that the company worked with the manufacturer on its design and capability.
Increasingly, manufacturers are keen to work with Hird on new vacuum lifter designs.
They know they will be creating lifters at the cutting edge of glass lifting technology – to meet specific structural requirements on prestige projects in London. They can then market these glass lifters to other clients around the world.
Another example is the Hydraulica 3500, known simply as the Brutus. It has a lifting capacity of 3,500kg – the equivalent of two Audi Q5s, and is the largest vacuum lifter available in the UK.
The Hydraulica 3500 is designed to allow even the largest sheets of glass or window sections to be lifted, manipulated and installed safely, with complete precision. It defines what is possible in super heavy glass lifting on the UK at the moment.
John Wilding said: “Design needs and security concerns are just two of the drivers of change at this end of the glass lifting market. Another is the need to build fast, safe and accurately to meet the latest sustainable construction standards and financial pressures.
“Contractors are under pressure to speed up build times, while maintaining the highest safety standards. Also, larger panels of glass means higher costs when things go wrong. So they just can’t go wrong! Using vacuum lifters like Brutus is a big part of the answer to that.”
Hird is also the UK and Ireland authorised dealer for Winlet glazing robots, which have been proven to double the productivity of glass installation on large projects. The machines are currently being put to use on the Battersea Power Station development.
John Wilding says Hird will continue to develop its super heavy glass lifting hire range. Demand for vacuum lifters that can handle even higher capacities is only going to increase over the next five years.
He said: “The London skyline has been transformed by glass over the last five years. We’re proud to say we’re continuing to play our part in that process. It’s very much a partnership effort, working with our clients on one side, and our glass lifter manufacturers on the other.”
For more information about Hird’s glass lifter hire service, from the smallest weights – to the super heavy ones – call: +44 (0)203 174 0658. Or email: [email protected].