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The Story of the 1.5 Tonne

The Story of the 1.5 Tonne

When 33 year old Rohan Silva, former senior policy advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron spent £3 million gutting an old carpet factory off Brick Lane to create a utopian workspace called Second Home, a media frenzy ensued.

When 33 year old Rohan Silva, former senior policy advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron spent £3 million gutting an old carpet factory off Brick Lane to create a utopian workspace called Second Home, a media frenzy ensued.

The brief to the architects was “make this office special” and Spanish architects SelgasCano came up trumps. Located in a former carpet factory in Shoreditch, Second Home is a collaborative workspace featuring transparent acrylic walls & over a thousand plants. There is even a “roaming zone” and “hanging garden”, shared spaces into which workers can wander as they wish.

Even before opening, the venue quickly became known as the coolest office in London. The Evening Standard commenting “Second Home is a workplace of the future.” As it stands, in terms of members, Second Home have turned down over 70 companies and it’s now a case of “one in, one out.”

Everything being designed to encourage open-minded behaviour, at the heart of Second Home is a large steel meeting table, weighing one and a half tonnes which can rise into the void above to leave the floor clear for other activities, some of them open to the public. These run from lectures by great scientists to parties, film screenings and live music. This formed an integral part of the design with The Royal Institute of British Architects commenting, “the show is stolen by a corian-topped steel flying table: 1.5 tonnes on wires”.

It was this centrepiece ‘flying-table’ in the main auditorium that led to Second Home contacting Raising & Lowering Systems…they had the table, but as yet it could not fly! R & L Systems were tasked with creating a fixed mechanical lifting and lowering system for the table which could be easily operated at ground level. The system would allow the table to be quickly lifted and safely suspended in the roof void when required to free up valuable floor space for functions and equally as easily, be lowered to become part of the workspace again, acting as a huge shared desk.

Raising and Lowering Systems specialist winch systems are typically installed as permanent fixtures situated in the roof voids of buildings. The electrically powered or manual winch systems are operated at ground level, allowing the load (typically a luminaire) to be mechanically raised and lowered making it accessible for cleaning and maintenance.


In the case of the Second Home project, the same principal was applied, although instead of raising and lowering a luminaire such as a chandelier, the system would be used to lift and lower the “flying table”. Having worked at prestigious locations including Buckingham Palace, the Royal Academy of Arts, Hamleys and the National Trust, the decision makers at Second Home knew that they could rely on R & L Systems to do the job.

This was an extremely challenging 6 rope electric winch system installation which drew a lot of attention on site! The weight and size of the table itself causing the main challenges. The system had to be robust enough to lift a 1.5 tonne load multiple times per day. The winch assembly itself weighed over 300kg and this had to be inverted and installed to the underside of a roof, through a small opening in the suspended ceiling at the premises.

In addition to the installation of new winch system, the R & L team carry out statutory annual Thorough Examinations once every 12 months and, due to the heavy use of the equipment, an additional 6 monthly inspection on the system. This planned maintenance programme ensures that the equipment meets Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), giving peace of mind that the installation is operational and continues to be safe to use.


The system is proving to be a great success and acts as an integral part of the day to day running of the facility. It has been fantastic for R & L to be part of such an ambitious project. Keep your eyes peeled for further “flying” items throughout the UK!

Raising and Lowering systems are the leading authority in the installation and maintenance of lifting and lowering systems for chandeliers and other lighting installations in the UK and are a division of Penny Hydraulics Ltd (www.pennyhydraulics.com). Penny Hydraulics Ltd design, manufacture, install and service a wide range of lifting equipment and has its own purpose built premises housing its manufacturing and assembly plant, carrying out all the functions of a fully integrated company with design, manufacturing, quality control, aftersales support and nationwide service operation for over 37 years.

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