The simple answer is ‘it depends’.
Although mast climbers can be seen as an almost ‘off the shelf’ vertical access option when compared with scaffolding, there’s still a lot that can have an impact on the price you’ll pay.
Whether you’re getting prices for a quick maintenance job or a brand-new high-rise building, there are a lot of factors that can affect the cost. From the installation element, the labour required, additional extras and even the costs of hiring the MCWP beyond the agreed time period, all have an impact.
As you can see, there is no concrete answer. Instead, it’s important to explore costs across the whole project and how that creates a price that you can compare with other forms of vertical access.
Mast Climber Installation Cost
Labour costs on construction projects are typically between 20-40% of the total. When you start comparing the difference between the erection of scaffolding and mast climbers, the importance of these labour costs really starts to stand out.
Scaffolding involves a far greater volume of parts. From tubes and boards to fittings, the larger the building the larger the number of parts. This means operatives will spend more time erecting the scaffolding and at a significant expense.
Consider a 40m high building – approximately 20m in length.
It would take around 16 days to erect scaffolding and reach the highest levels of the building. A mast climber for instance would take just 2 days. When it comes to completing your project on budget, the difference in labour costs means that from a financial point of view, an MCWP makes sense with up to 60% or more savings not unusual.
Mast Climber Rental Economics
You can’t simply look at the price of scaffolding, then look at the price of a mast climber and decide which to choose. It’s about the bigger picture; what is included and what levels of service will you get?
Compare scaffolding to something like an all-inclusive package holiday. You know what to expect and generally know what you are paying for, but more often than not you’re hit with some surprises.
The ‘all-inclusive’ bar only includes soft drinks, and the pool is only available in the morning. With scaffolding, you’ve got your vertical access, but when you need to adapt the lift heights for different trades, you’re in for a financial surprise, if this hasn’t been pre-considered.
Mast climbing is much more 'the bespoke holiday package'. You sit down with a consultant and design exactly what you need, and you pay for precisely that. The main difference is however, that you’ll actually be paying less for a far greater and more efficient service that actually benefits your construction project.
When you break down the economics further and start exploring the cost of expanding your vertical access, mast climbers start to make much more sense.
As building height progresses, so does the requirement for more layers of equipment and therefore the cost of the rental. With a mast climber on the other hand, because access to all floors is available instantaneously, all that is needed is additional mast sections that are quickly attached to the existing height.
What’s more, because these are often quoted upfront as additions, there are no nasty surprises.
How many times have your quote and final price for scaffolding been wildly different due to factors like adaptations for different trades?
Are There Electricity Costs For A Mast Climber?
Mast climbers are sometimes known as motorised scaffolding, leading many to question how much electricity (and therefore cost) is required to run them.
The answer again is ‘it depends’.
It depends on things like how often the MCWP is ascending and descending throughout the day for instance.
If a brick worker arrives in the morning, ascends to the level they are working on, comes down for lunch, and goes back up for the afternoon before leaving for the day, they’ll have done a total of 4 movements.
Compare that with someone who arrives, ascends the platform but realises they’ve left their screwdriver at the bottom. Then throughout the day, they have to move to ascend and descend an additional 5 or 6 times, to pick up other trades, the electricity usage is going to be much more.
If electricity is a sticking point, it’s important to look at costs across the whole project, not just in isolated bubbles.
In fact, a recent investigation by putting counters within the control panel found that the platform was only used for a total of 1 hour 23 minutes across a week. Electricity really isn’t as big a problem as you might think.
Considering the Cost of A Mast Climber
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the cost of a mast climber and it’s not as simple as X or Y.
While the price may vary from mast climber models, you also have to consider factors that go beyond the vertical access solution.
Installation time has an impact. Rental economics has an impact. Even productivity has an impact on the overall objective of keeping costs and program time down to a minimum
The most important thing is that mast climbing prices are completely transparent and what you are quoted will be broken down, even to the point of including the price for extras such as enclosed roofs and drop-down flaps.
The best place to start is by speaking to mast climber and vertical access experts like BFT.
And remember, the best solution is very rarely a binary choice, using both scaffolding and mast climbers is more often than not the best option.