Keeping the Sky from Falling Canopies, Exterior Scaffolds and Pedestrian Safety

Walk down any street in Chicago and you’re likely to go under or around one of the ubiquitous steel-and-plywood structures that shade the city’s sidewalks, more often than not festooned with wheat-pasted posters for everything from the hottest nightclub parties to new movies opening this weekend.

They’re called pedestrian canopies and scaffolds (in other cities they're known as construction sheds) and these blue or green plywood platforms boosted up above street level by crisscrossing metal poles and girders are usually installed on buildings in the midst of an exterior repair program.

What's That Thing?

“A pedestrian protection canopy is an assembly of structural steel beams, steel posts, corrugated steel sheeting, cross members, plywood, fasteners, accessories and other components that are assembled by skilled tradesmen at the project site,” says Claudius Zurek, owner of Alpha Construction and Restoration. “Canopies vary in size, width, length and load rating. They are stabilized, leveled and squared by leveling devices and wood cribbing to prevent shifting or tipping.”

By contrast, a scaffold is a temporary 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.

Both types of structures are often in place for years at a time, and can become tremendous eyesores, with flapping plastic and cracked, peeling paint that erode even the most luxurious building's curb appeal.

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