Occupation not for those with fear of heights
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/02/2012 -- Hanging from ropes 150 metres above the ground in the midday heat, six young men meticulously clean the 12,500 glass panes of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company's (Adnec) Capital Gate centre.
As they descend the world’s steepest man-made building, the workers use custom suction cups. The team, which includes workers hosing down the lower floors from a moving platform, spends 30 days cleaning the entire structure. By the time they complete the task, it’s time to begin again.
"We have to use a variety of techniques to clean our buildings, from rope access to boom systems, gantry systems, cradles and spraying with high-pressure hoses," said Alain El Tawil, Grako managing director. His company is charged with cleaning the tower which leans at an angle of 18 degrees. Grako also handles cleaning of the Burj Khalifa and many other unconventionally shaped and challenging to clean structures.
The Middle East features some of the globe’s tallest and oddly shaped buildings. This has proven to increasingly challenge window cleaners, who strive to keep up with the architectural innovations. "Each company wants to build something different," said Mr. El Tawil. "And that means making their buildings bigger and more complicated. Over the last eight years we have seen the company grow by 100 per cent each year in terms of staff numbers and we always have to keep recruiting in order to meet the demand."
Striving to keep up with the architectural trend is a struggle for everyone involved in Middle East construction. "As tall buildings grow more sophisticated, systems to maintain them are increasingly addressed in the initial designs,” said Kevin Brass, public affairs manager for Chicago think tank the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. “Architects need to determine how workers will handle issues, where materials will be stored and how crews can move around the building without affecting tenants. In buildings, space is always at a premium. Anything that takes up rentable space slices into the economics of a building. As buildings grow taller, the designers spend an extraordinary amount of time determining where to locate the mechanical apparatus.”
The trend is a lucrative one for Theo van der Linde, operations manager for CoxGomyl, a company that specialises in installing gondolas used to clean many tall buildings. In fact, the more complex and oddly shaped the building, the more work for people such as Mr. van der Linde.
"We work from the start with the architects who will be doing the overall design of the building and then assist them to ensure that the building maintenance units can reach all areas of the building to do cleaning or maintenance on the facade," he said. "Our specialist design team then design the gondolas according to the geometry of the specific building. The actual cleaning process is conventional using water, detergent and a applicator with the window wiper to remove the excess water, the same as what they will do when they clean your car windows at the filling station, except that it is a few hundred meters above ground level. Whoever is going inside the cradle needs to have an aptitude for heights."
Building management firms also say their work is becoming more challenging as the shapes and sizes of buildings become more intricate.
"We use a number of techniques to carry out facade and roof cleaning, including abseiling or rope access, manlift equipment, suspended platforms and, finally, cleaning from the ground with a water-fed pole system," said Mark Cooke, general manager of business operations in the Middle East at the facilities management company UGL.
"It depends on the type of buildings and the possible accessibility for facade cleaners to conduct their cleaning. Each building is treated individually, which includes a risk assessment and a safe work method statement."
The cost of cleaning an average Middle East tall building ranges from Dh30,000 (US$8,167) and Dh60,000, according to Mr. El Tawil.
Much of the cost is related to access requirements of employees, including skill sets, training and certification, said Mr. Cooke.
Window cleaners and their supervisors can earn Dh1,500 to Dh25,000 a month.
CleanWindowsOKC.com (http://cleanwindowsokc.com/), is a window cleaning company based in Oklahoma City, Okla., and takes pride in its work and in delighting its clients with results. The acronym “MARCO” stands for My (my, your, our) Absolutely Reliable Cleaning Organization.
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