How do you clean massive skyscrapers?
There are three main factors involved when it comes to cleaning skyscraper windows: cleaner equipment, cleaning mechanism technology and environmental considerations.
Due to the epic heights and natural factors like wind involved in the operation, every cleaner is equipped with a harness, descent and safety rope, rope protector, rope-grabbing tool, descent mechanism, lanyard and suction cups. Together these tools enable the worker to negotiate a building’s vertical façade at speed, while attached to a roof-mounted anchor. This anchor allows cleaners to descend in ‘drops’ – the measurement of one vertical cleaning operation from roof to the below floor or platform – without fear of falling.
When group work is necessary, a cleaning mechanism will be employed (see boxout on the right for more information). These mechanical gantries enable teams of cleaners to work in unison and are powered by roof-mounted hydraulic and pneumatic support systems. The ascending and descending of the gantries is dictated by a control panel, but as a backup additional control systems are typically placed on the roof of the building.
Lastly, when cleaning skyscraper windows, workers must constantly be vigilant of potentially deadly environmental factors – the chief one being wind. At the high altitude of skyscrapers, wind flow is not just fierce but highly turbulent, with the building acting as a disrupter to the general environmental flow. These gusts can blow cleaners off course, cause tools to be dropped (risking anyone passing below) and render gantries unusable. Luckily, many modern skyscrapers – such as the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – are now being designed to smoothly redirect winds around their structures and prevent the buildup of vortices and turbulence.