Last week urban explorers shared London’s latest and greatest aerial view, from atop of The Shard in London Bridge. Pictures of the explorers scaling the unfinished 310-metre skyscraper emerged in the press after being posted on the Place Hacking Urban Exploration blog. It raised serious questions about the security of the site, which is supposed to be one of the most secure construction sites in the UK after the Olympic Park.
When The Shard is finished in June it will be Europe’s tallest building, and the forty-fifth tallest in the world. The Place Hacking blog is run by American PHD student Bradley L Garrett, who claims he and two friends slipped past a lone security guard at the Shard site, climbing 76 floors to the top of the tower to take some breath-taking photographs.
The photos have led to criticisms regarding the security of the site. Sellar Property Group, responsible for developing The Shard, and main contractor Mace refuse to accept the latest breaches, claiming that the site is more secure than ever thanks to 14 night-time security guards on-duty at all times, 25 CCTV cameras and a ground-floor-level laser alarm system. They allege that the photos were actually taken over a year ago before security measures were stepped-up.
Bradley Garrett, the leader of the explorers, who runs the Place Hacking blog claims that he and his friends have climbed the tower several times, and have confidence about being able to do so again in the future. He explained that security guards still need breaks, walks and changeovers and this presents enough of an opportunity for explorers to get inside a site. He claims the group do not intend to break, vandalise or alter any of the sites or buildings that they enter.
Garret gave a detailed account of how he and his group managed to gain entry to the site; by waiting for a security guard to enter a hunt, waiting around, jumping over scaffolding pipes and swinging from a bridge. He was even quoted as saying that one security guard was inside a hut watching television instead of CCTV monitors.
It is a requirement of construction sites that steps are taken by site managers to exclude unauthorised members of the public from entering a construction site, through clearly-defined boundaries and security enforcement.
Boundaries should be defined with fencing which should be appropriate for the site and well-maintained. In populated areas the Health and Safety Executive recommend two-metre mesh fencing or hoarding, and stipulate that the principal contractor must take “reasonable steps” to prevent unauthorised people from entering the site.
Whether the construction company will face any punishment from the Health and Safety Executive remains to be seen.