A Comparison: Rope Access vs. Scaffolding vs. MEWPs

Whether construction or cleaning, non-traditional and high-rise buildings require additional equipment and planning when thinking about access. As providers of a range of access options for buildings which may be deemed difficult to clean and maintain, we recognise the benefits of all the different access methods available to you, and here we’re looking at why you may choose one over another and the benefits that come with each.

The main options available for difficult to access buildings are scaffolding, rope access and mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). Looking at each in turn should give you a better understanding of their benefits and if you aren’t sure which is right for your building, just get in touch and our experts can help.

Considering Scaffolding


Scaffolding can be a good choice for older or architecturally complex buildings, but it is important to be particularly careful to protect the façade of the building. Experienced scaffolders have the knowledge and expertise to ensure the right scaffold if provided for the building and there are options of either suspended or supported scaffolding, with some only being suitable for certain types of building. Scaffolding structures must be built by professionals and inspected and tested before use. As well as safety inspections at the beginning, the scaffolding should be regularly inspected to ensure its integrity.

Scaffolding for difficult to access and non-traditional buildings, especially those which may be listed or of historical significance needs to be very carefully put in place and there are scaffolding options which require not direct vertical support from the building but horizontal tying is needed instead, to avoid interference with the building’s façade. Scaffolding is something we are all used to seeing and it can be used for a wide range of buildings, but it isn’t always the correct option so always check first to see if something else may be recommended for your building.

Considering Rope Access

abseiling from an industrial building

Rope Access has become very popular for working at height, particularly where buildings of historical significant are concerned. It is one of the least invasive and risky options when considering the façade of any building and this has been key to its popularity. Rope access, also known as industrial abseiling utilises a range of ropes, pulleys and highly-trained professionals to ensure a safely carried out cleaning, repair or renovation

Rope access is popular because it is considered extremely safe. The regulations around working with rope access systems are stringent and it requires no additional terrain, flat or otherwise, to work from and this means work can begin quickly. Many property owners and developers find rope access to be an affordable option, especially for the highest buildings. With scaffolding, the costs can increase as the height does and it can also become expensive if needed over a long period of time. Similarly, the setup and speed of rope access works has increased their popularity. There is no extensive setup or rigging of equipment, the building is not at all obstructed and does not become a construction site whilst the work is being carried out.

Considering MEWPs

An MEWP being used to redecorate a brick and render building

Mobile elevating work platforms, more commonly known as MEWPs, provide a safe and flat surface to work on and they benefit from being power-driven. They are usually fully mobile in most directions and they can be custom-designed to fit difficult-to-access and restricted spaces.

MEWPs provide a safe and secure way of working at height. Regulations around working at height mean it is integral safety measures are considered in every job and MEWPs are amongst the safest way to work at height, even in difficult to reach spaces. They also make it easy to carry heavy tools and even machinery where necessary and specialist materials can also be taken directly to where they are needed with ease. Despite their technological prowess MEWPs are also surprisingly easy to setup and transport, especially if you work with an experienced provider of this kind of equipment. There are MEWPs available for inside and outside, which can be good for tricky inside jobs as well as those around building façades.

One stumbling block with MEWPs is undoubtedly the cost. As they are technologically advanced and may require transportation to and from any building, the costs can build up. Hiring MEWPs or working with a MEWPs company may be expensive than the other options on the market, but they can be the ideal solution for certain buildings.

The Right Access Services for your Building

There are many factors which will influence the access services suitable for your building, and any of the above methods may be the best for your business. Factors to consider include:

  • Age of the building
  • Historical significance of the building
  • Any regulations such as listing guidelines you need to keep in mind
  • Height of the building
  • Difficult-to-access areas

You will also need to keep in mind the budget for your project and opt for a solution which stays in line with the funds available. Buildings with particularly difficult to access areas do require highly experienced professionals to ensure safe and appropriate access and a proper level of cleaning, care or maintenance can be carried out.

As specialists in the most difficult to access buildings and providing the right solutions for every kind of building, even the most unique and unusual, we can help you make the right decision when it comes to access services. We have solutions and services for almost every type of building and can help even when it seems like there may be no effective way of reaching parts of your building, especially if you’re worried about damage or the integrity of a historical feature. Our commitment to buildings of every style, size, and height ensures we treat them all with equal respect and will work with you to find the right solution for your buildings need. The above options are the most common and are the first step in what we can offer, with a wide range of façade survey and maintenance services available once we’ve arranged and gained appropriate access.