In a city known for its tall buildings, two kinds of structures loom almost as large as the buildings themselves—construction sheds (normally called a sidewalk shed) and scaffolds. Everyone has seen these familiar blue plywood platforms boosted up above the city’s sidewalks by crisscrossing frameworks of metal poles and girders. But what’s their purpose—and how does the city manage their safe construction and deconstruction? The answers are useful, both to boards and managing agents.
“A sidewalk shed is set up for sidewalk protection, period,” says Tony Malatos of KNS Restoration in Maspeth, Queens. “You set them up when you do work on the side of a building, to catch any debris. It protects pedestrians.”
A scaffold is a work platform, either suspended from the roof or some other part of a building or built up from the ground, typically with a system of pipe sections. This type of scaffold is usually erected on top of a sidewalk shed, which protects the sidewalk below the scaffold. The sheds are nothing more than tubular sections with mudsills at the base and corrugated 1x4 or 1x8-foot flanking above.
“Scaffolding is what you use to actually get up there and do the work,” Malatos explains. “There’s suspended scaffolding and there is pipe scaffolding.”
“People like to call scaffolds ‘bridges,’” says Wayne Bellet of Bellet Construction in Manhattan. “They say, ‘I’m going to set up a sidewalk bridge,’ but ‘bridge’ and ‘scaffold’ are both accepted words in the industry. The sidewalk pedestrian shed is really the most important part, though—it’s there solely for the safety of pedestrians.”