WellMax Scaffolding reach for the sky to help restore millennium glory


WellMax Scaffolding reaches for the sky to help restore millennium glory. Grahame Anderson discovers that although working to very tight deadlines and various challenges, this iconic London structure was able to open its doors again after falling victim to Storm Eunice.

The venue has the second-highest capacity of any indoor arena in the UK and was initially constructed to house an exhibition celebrating the turn of the new millennium.

But even this brilliantly designed superstructure can suffer in the face of mother nature and the worst weather she can unleash. In fact, Storm Eunice that hit the UK in February well and truly left her mark on the building’s roof ripping away some of the famous white material, leaving it seriously exposed in parts.

WellMax Scaffolding reach for the sky to help restore millennium glory at O2

In terms of its repair, it needed a project team well versed in such emergencies – a group of highly skilled, specialist contractors able to handle the pressure to enable the dome to re-open safely in a short timeframe.

These essential repairs would not have been possible without a protective temporary gantry to allow safe pedestrian and emergency service vehicles access to enable the arena to reopen as quickly as possible.

WellMax Scaffolding was the ideal choice to provide such a solution, renowned for their experience and technical expertise in projects both of this scale and stature.  It was important to get the site back operational again following a tough two-years due to the pandemic let alone expensive damage from one of the fiercest storms the capital has ever experienced. With the entertainment industry suffering heavily, everyone involved needed to be fully focused on the task ahead.

Across the weekend of 19 Feb, the area had to firstly be assessed by the fire marshals, venue management and the client. Site visits and meetings could then take place with the necessary trades to determine what was required.

A WellMax spokesperson takes up the story: “Following our initial first visit and awaiting further instructions from our client, WellMax senior management set the wheels in motion preparing for our attendance on site.

“In collaboration with our scaffolding design engineers, discussions took place to classify the loadings and design requirements and also to get RAMS prepared. Materials were then loaded onto our lorries at our yard as the scaffolding site team became fully operational. Everything had to be ready on-site at the O2 for a cold start on Monday morning, 21 Feb.

“Basic principles, regulations and specifications were discussed with the specialist trades with a completion date of works by all trades set at noon on Friday of that week. The reality was it left just over four days to get the job done.

“Prior to our works commencing, WellMax Managing Director Russell Maxwell-Smith, met with our scaffolding team on site to speak about the importance of this project. This included the tight deadline and the need for close cohesive working with the other trades and asking for their support to deliver his commitment to the client.

“Everyone set to working around the clock to meet the Friday deadline. There was constant communication with the scaffolding design engineers, checking and clarifying points as the works progressed.  Whilst undertaking our own works, we worked hand in glove with the hoarding contractors to ensure maximum productivity completing sections of the gantry together.”

Scaffmag has learned a planned methodical programme was utilised in order to achieve smooth progress stages throughout the project. This involved electricians and fire engineers along with the highly trained scaffolders.

The scaffold structure was effectively a T-shape, with the body of the T, a 60m long, 11m wide and 6m high gantry. Where the gantry met the arena gate entrance, this formed the head of the T-shape creating a further 35m long area.

The entire gantry was bridged and suspended throughout to maintain pedestrian and emergency vehicle access.

WellMax Scaffolding reach for the sky to help restore millennium glory at O2

WellMax added: “We installed a 5kn/m2 protection deck with a mono-pitched temporary roof, tied back to the main structural foundations with a bespoke beamed raking system. By developing and installing this tying in system, we were able to remove the need for 100T of kentledge.

“Throughout the entire challenge, everybody worked with the sole objective of delivering the project for the Friday 12pm deadline. There was no status/hierarchy amongst any of the trades, everybody got involved and every trade pulled together.”

WellMax Scaffolding reach for the sky to help restore millennium glory at O2

Behind the scenes back at WellMax offices, the yard staff, drivers, management and engineers were all busy ensuring a smooth flow of support and resources needed by the team working on site.

The company continued work on the emergency project as everyday business carried on. Thanks to an impressive and well-managed labour resource allocation and owned stock, WellMax were able to mobilise teams and materials quickly to site for the Monday morning start.

200 tonnes of scaffolding

More than 200T of scaffolding materials was installed to an engineering standard in a little over 96 hours often in the pouring rain.

WellMax Scaffolding reach for the sky to help restore millennium glory at O2

The timescale of Friday was critical as the venue was due to host a UB40 concert that evening – no pressure then!!

Incredibly, the 12pm deadline was met by all the trades to enable a full multi-disciplined inspection and sign off to be achieved. What’s more no remedial works were required.

In terms of the UK scaffolding industry, once again proof positive emerged, we have some of the best scaffolders and construction workers on the planet.

Russell Maxwell-Smith told us: “I would like to thank everyone involved on this project including, but not limited to the client’s team, Deconstruct (UK), other subcontractors, our supply chain and lastly, most importantly for me, the WellMax team both on and off site for their cohesive teamwork and approach to this timely critical project.”

And so, Former UB40 member Ali Campbell was able to “tear the roof off” again in the nicest possible sense when he reopened the venue in a show honouring his late bandmate Astro.

Raise a glass to WellMax – Red Red Wine anyone?

This article was first published in the ScaffMag Magazine Issue 16