New Scaffolding for NYC: Urban Umbrella

It's the first time in 60 years the sidewalk shed has been revamped

The dark, boxy sidewalk sheds currently protruding from buildings undergoing construction in New York City will soon be replaced by brighter, more airy structures called Urban Umbrellas.

Mayor Bloomberg helped unveil a prototype of the new structure at 100 Broadway in Lower Manhattan Wednesday. It was the winning design in a field of 164 entries submitted in the urbanSHED International Design Competition.

"The Urban Umbrella is a perfect combination of design elegance and construction safety that will complement our City's sidewalks and businesses rather than hide them," said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri.

City officials are hoping businesses will opt for the new Urban Umbrellas over the current "eyesore" scaffolding, saying the costs are about the same. Maintenance costs over the course of construction is expected to be even less with the Urban Umbrella installed.

The new structure, comprised primarily of recycled steel, translucent plastic panels and LED lighting, brings more air and natural light to the sidewalk, and increases building visibility to help businesses attract customers during construction, said city officials.

Designers Andres Cortes and Sarrah Khan said the goal in designing the Urban Umbrella was to "create an environment that stimulated one to look upward and outward."

The design is also safer than the current model of the sidewalk shed because it is more resistant to the forces associated with falling debris, vehicle accidents and strong winds, officials said.

Sidewalk sheds are required during construction of new buildings 40 feet or higher and the demolition of buildings 25 feet or higher. There are approximately 6,000 sheds installed in New York City.

The Urban Umbrella represents the first major overhaul to the sidewalk shed in 60 years.

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