Sky high safety work at Northumbria Lodge

Safety specialists are abseiling down the 38 metre high Northumbria Lodge in Newcastle – the latest in a package of measures from Bernicia to keep tenants safe in their homes.


The eight-strong team from contractors Rope Access Management Solutions is painstakingly lowered down the Cowgate high rise building, inch by inch over a two-month period – repairing any damage and general wear and tear to the 40-year-old building.
As they move down all sides of the Bernicia building, they repair as they go – repointing mortar, making concrete repairs on lintels, resealing windows and fitting ‘weep vents’ into the brickwork, allowing the building to ‘breathe’ and stopping insects like wasps and ants from getting into the cavity wall.
“Rope access is an incredibly cost effective solution to carry out the safety work, compared to the substantial cost implications of putting up scaffolding and the quality of life issues that brings for tenants with loss of light and intrusion,” said Kevin Miller, Rope Access Management Solutions managing director.
“We initially surveyed the building by taking hundreds of high-definition drone photographs, which allowed us to build an extremely detailed 3D model using specialist modelling software.
“The model was completed in our Cramlington office from which we created a detailed schedule of repair work to be built up. After we completed the 3D model, we then spent four days on site to physically check every inch of the building and add our findings to the 3D model.”
A series of winter storms meant the team couldn’t abseil down the building for several weeks, but they are well on track to complete the safety work this month. They train to industry-best standards at their Cramlington base and count Nissan UK at Sunderland among their clients.
Bernicia is backing National Social Housing Safety and Compliance Week, with the aim of creating safer homes for all tenants in the wake of the Grenfell disaster five years ago. The annual event shines a light on safety and compliance at an operational, strategic and cultural level in social housing providers.
Colin Kingshott, Bernicia head of strategic asset management and customer safety, said: “The safety of our tenants is our number one priority and we have worked hard to put in place a comprehensive package of safety measures at Northumbria Lodge.
“Tenants have been very supportive of what we have done to ensure their safety, which gives them peace of mind – while ensuring Bernicia continues to meet stringent new safety legislation, even before it becomes law, as with the Building Safety Bill currently going through Parliament.”
The rope access repairs are the most visible safety measures put in place by Bernicia at Northumbria Lodge.
The tower block is visible from across Newcastle and is home to dozens of tenants.
The new Building Safety Bill making its way through Parliament requires building owners to examine and tackle structural and fire safety at buildings over 18 metres high.
Rather than wait for the legislation to pass through Parliament, Northumbria Lodge-owner Bernicia has:
* Completed a full structural survey of the building by a chartered structural engineer (CK21)
* Completed a full fire survey of the external wall of the building by a chartered fire engineer.
* Installed a new state-of-the-art fire sprinkler system in the building
* Installed new fire doors throughout the building
* Carried out fire compartmentation work in flats and communal areas, which stops the spread of fire
* Completed a building safety case and building safety report of the building
* Carries out regular fire and safety inspections, weekly fire alarm checks and six-monthly fire risk assessments
* Carries out daily general checks of the building.
Pic shows the Rope Access team outside Northumbria Lodge: Chris Heppenstall, Kevin Miller, Lee Wilson and Joe Heppenstall.