Facade Access Systems
While the construction industry in India has graduated from 20 to 60 floors, the façade cleaning sector, to a large extent is still comfortable with the rope access system for cleaning and building maintenance. Most often, be it hotels or commercial complexes, the façade cleaning and maintenance is outsourced to facility management companies or private contractors. FM companies again outsource façade cleaning to contractors.
Not all buildings are equipped with a permanent means of access to maintain the façade. Hence, private contractors who are equipped with a team of several trained rope climbers and rope access systems or other temporary access systems have been offering façade cleaning services on a monthly basis.
The increasing number of complex high rise building structures, absence of clear maintenance access systems and the dearth of professional rope climbers are giving rise to several risk factors. Accessing a building of say 20 floors using the rope systems is feasible in many cases “but how can you ask a worker to go up 40 floors without proper access system”, argues Ashok Khemlani, Managing Director, Cradle Runways India Pvt Ltd. Today, high rises are installing various façade access systems not just for cleaning but also for regular maintenance, planned preventative maintenance, repairs, breakdown and standby services, besides speedy access and construction.
Building Maintenance Units: BMUs are permanently installed roof cars for maintenance workers to safely access all areas of a building’s facade for inspection, repairs, waterproofing and regular window cleaning.
Monorail Systems: Monorail systems in certain cases offer an excellent alternative to the traditional BMUs. For recessed or overhanging facades, for buildings with a sloped roof and for cleaning the inside of glazed atria such as those covering modern commercial centres, monorails combined with cradles suspended from manual or powered trolleys are sometimes the only practical solution.
Ladder Systems: A wide variety of solutions use ladders and platforms which are either vertically mounted or sloped, guided along rails and designed to blend in with the shape and colour of the background of the building. Control is carried out using the manual control or the winch drive.
Mobile Suspension Systems: These are portable suspension systems mounted on bases permanently fitted along the roof. Mobile davits, as they are called, allow the cradle to be moved from one section to another to reach the different areas of the building’s facade and to be stored on the roof.
Gantries: These can be used to clean glass roofs and façades from the inside and the outside. These units move electrically and mechanically. If required they can be equipped with telescopic ladder towers.
“The increasing number of high rise buildings and large glass facades has resulted in the need for safe and effective cleaning systems. Manual, semi-automatic, automatic and robotic systems have evolved and are being specifically designed to suit morden day building envelopes.” – Ashok Khemlani
Temporary Suspended Access System is designed for temporary access typically for façade installation and maintenance. It consists of a lightweight platform which comes with specific load bearing capacity adhering to safety norms.
A key difference between the two systems, Permanent and Temporary, is the safety features and protection provided in the cradle as compared to a platform. The selection of any means of access solution for façade cleaning depends on such factors as: the building design, capital cost of equipment invested and costs of incorporating systems into the design of the structure.