Whenever you’re building, renovating, repairing, or demolishing a structure in a public area, you have to take appropriate measures to protect passers by from falling debris and objects. Sometimes that means temporarily eliminating public access—often by closing the sidewalk. At other times, it calls for erecting a sidewalk canopy, otherwise known as a sidewalk shed.
Building Sidewalk Canopies to Spec
Formwork and shoring elements like scaffolding that are used by the crew are governed by OSHA regulations, as they pertain to worker safety in the work environment. But an element like sidewalk sheds for public safety are outside OSHA’s purview; these must be constructed in accordance with local building codes, whether municipal, state, or a model building code (like the International Code Council’s International Building Code or the National Fire Prevention Association’s Building Construction and Safety Code).
Building codes exist to protect the public. They create standards for load bearing, electrical and mechanical systems, building materials, clearance height and width, lighting, and other safety aspects. Your sidewalk canopy must be built to meet all specifications of relevant building codes.
Additional Sidewalk Shed Considerations
A qualified expert should determine what type of sidewalk canopy is best suited the job and environment each time. For example, there are various types of scaffold-style framed walk-throughs, post systems for higher load requirements, and other options.
Here are some other key considerations in designing sidewalk canopies:
- Decking – The decking, as well as the supporting framework, must be able to securely support the load requirements defined in the relevant building code. Typically, this is at least 150 pounds per square foot. At a standard 7-foot span, scaffold planks will not suffice. Double decking or specially constructed decking is usually necessary.
- Wind loads – Wind creates horizontal and uplift forces that bear on a sidewalk canopy and parapets or other safety features to catch debris, and the building code will have specs to account for this. The deck must be properly attached to the framework to resist uplift forces and the entire structure must be securely anchored.
- Scaffold loads – If you’re using scaffolding above the sidewalk shed, the scaffold’s live and dead loads must be accounted for. The scaffold is subject to OSHA regulations and should be designed and inspected by a competent, qualified party. Usually, the canopy deck can’t handle the load of the scaffold legs directly, so they should pass through to the canopy’s stringer beams.
- Traffic barriers – Sidewalk canopies alongside a road need to be protected from the impact of a passing vehicle—typically by concrete barriers. If the canopy legs are close to the street, a lane closure is generally needed to accommodate the barriers. If the canopy legs are far enough from the curb line, the barriers can be placed on the sidewalk.
- Building access – Safe and easy access into and out of the building you’re working on is often needed, especially with maintenance projects. This requires openings in the canopy braces at the point of doorways in use, which affects the design for adequate support. These openings must meet the specs of the building code. Also, emergency exits cannot be obstructed.
- Fire codes – Sidewalk canopies must be built in accordance with all relevant local fire codes. In addition to keeping fire and emergency exits clear, another common consideration is ensuring unfettered access to the building’s standpipe and hose system connections.