How are Skyscraper Windows Cleaned?
Discover how the tallest buildings on the planet keep up appearances
There are three main factors involved when it comes to cleaning skyscraper windows: cleaning 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 roofmounted 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 (a risk to 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.
High-altitude window cleaning
Here are four of the most common skyscraper cleaning mechanisms
One of the most popular cleaning systems historically, the boom lets a building’s façade be accessed easily by a large team. The boom system is permanent and can be operated on-gantry or off.
These rail-mounted carriages enable gantries to cover larger areas of a building’s façade due to their ability to move left and right. As with booms, they are permanent structures and cannot be moved around the building.
The cheapest and simplest solution for cleaning skyscraper windows, portable davits move between ﬁxed bases on a roof, enabling access to different sides of the ediﬁce with just one davit-based system.
A more modern development in skyscraper window cleaning technology, the bosun’s chair gives a single cleaner access to a tall building’s windows from a safe seated position. They are ideal for tight areas and use over long periods.