The glass act

As glass windows increasingly adorn larger surface areas of modern day buildings, including hotels, malls and multiplexes, the cleaning regime becomes that much more of a challenge.

Praveen K Singh explores ways to confront this task

Hotel Le Meridien, located at Janpath in New Delhi, gives a picturesque view of the city as guests take in the beautiful surroundings through its many windows.

When a property's top attraction is its view keeping the windows clean has to be a priority. Tarun Takhral, GM at Le Meridien, says, “All our rooms have a beautiful view and to keep it that way we have a regular cleaning regime for our glass windows. Façade cleaning is a continuous process at our premise and our two motorised trolleys and janitorial staff take care of the glass windows regularly."

Hotel Le Meridien may put more emphasis on its windows but the challenge of keeping them clean is pretty much universal.

Glass walls

Over the years, glass has become an integral part of the architectural design of a variety of buildings. Whether we talk of hotels, commercial complexes, multiplexes or malls, glass windows have become prominent architectural features. And keeping them clean has become a bigger chore for the housekeeping department.

Surender Routela who runs FDS Management Group, a facility management company, says, "Ordinary cleaning procedures are virtually impossible for complex architectural structures such as glass walls that slope both outward and inward, conical, hexagonal or cylindrical shapes. These call for a variety of systems so that the operatives are able to reach each and every square foot of the façade."

Capitol Court, at New Delhi's Outer Ring Road, has hundreds of windows. The 26,000 square foot building surface is approximately 50 per cent glass. Paramjit Singh, the hotel’s estate manager, feels that the weather is their biggest challenge. “Due to dirt and weather elements, the outside windows pretty much stay dirty during the winter." The problems with glass are universal. Fingerprints top the list for interior windows, followed by stains from dirt or cigarette-smoke residue, and streaking. The top offender for exterior windows is Mother Nature.

Cleaning techniques

"The method adopted is mainly installation of runways or portable jibs on roofs and a cradle rigged to runways permitting traverse and vertical movement so that one or two window cleaners are able to move on the façade to clean it. It is essential that the systems provided are practical and safe," specifies Routela.

Façade and exterior window cleaning has witnessed a dramatic change in terms of the methods of working adopted for skyscrapers. Today many modern access systems and methods are available that enables easy and safe reach at skyscrapers. This includes ladders, hydraulic platforms, cradle and gantry systems, manual and electronic controlled rope descent systems, individual rope access, abseiling techniques and de-ionized water cleaning systems.

However, most skyscrapers have a permanent comprehensive cradle that is installed on site that reduces the maintenance cost of cleaning in future. Ankit Khanna, MD of Sparkling Facility Management Group, feels that these permanent window-cleaning equipment installed on rooftops such as powered platforms, platform supports, roof anchors, window cleaner belt anchors, permanent ladders must be inspected and maintained by the building owner, facility manager or operating agent. Special self-cleaning technology has electrified the trend of point-fixed glass façade with self-cleaning coatings. Currently, there are two main categories of self-clean coatings - hydrophobic and hydrophilic.

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