A Guide for Architects, Builders and Building Owners
Facade maintenance is an ongoing and never ending requirement for companies wanting to uphold a high class corporate image.
The task can be labour intensive, costly and involve the hire of expensive equipment to enable safe access for window cleaning or other maintenance tasks. Traffic management, footpath and road closures may also have to be included into the work plan.
Many glass / curtain wall facades don't have load bearing capabilities. Any rope access (abseil) over these facades must be independently supported so that there is no pressure applied and for this reason specialist equipment is often required.
Building designers are responsible to incorporate roof access, fall protection and facade maintenance systems into their documentation and consider the work to be undertaken when making equipment selection.
For existing buildings, it is the responsibility of the PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) to ensure that their workers are supplied with user friendly, compliant and efficient systems that offer the safest way to perform work at height.
So, what options do you have to ensure safe and easy maintenance for building facades?
RAPTOR davit rigid rail systems installed at BMW, Mulgrave provide minimal visual impact whilst ensuring easy facade maintenance.
The systems - advantages & disadvantages
A variety of systems are available allowing personnel to maintain facades, all with varying degrees of user functionality and safety. Note that all of these systems require trained personnel to operate them so it is important that only qualified and experienced workers use them.
Consideration must also be given to the type of facade that is going to be maintained and its structural integrity ie. glass and lightweight materials versus masonry or steel.
Types of facade maintenance systems are generally as follows:
- Rope Access (Abseil) - Rigid Rail, Davit Systems and Rope Access Anchors
- Building Maintenance Units (BMUs)
- Elevated Work Platforms (EWPs)
Rigid Rail / Davit Systems
Rigid rail systems are being used more and more for facade maintenance and are a cost effective, time saving solution.
They have many benefits, including multiple user capability, effortless mobility and facade integration.
Glass / curtain walls can easily be accessed by selecting a davit system which supports the suspended load of an operator. Mounted onto the roof or wall, a rigid rail davit system allows workers to safely maintain the facade without applying load to the curtain wall.
Increasing in popularity due to its minimal aesthetic impact and versatility, davits can also be supplied on a rigid rail system which gives the operator ability to roll along the length of the facade, thus reducing the time required by the operator to manually re-position themselves.
For more information on our range of RAPTOR rigid rail systems read our RAPTOR product overview.
RAPTOR davit rigid rail systems installed at Clifton Views and BMW allow access for maintenance without damaging the fragile facades.
- Easy access to difficult to reach areas
- Effortless mobility
- Low maintenance and dust resistant
- Multiple user capability
- Easily extended to cater for future requirements
- Little to no aesthetic impact, can be concealed
- Compact system, not requiring large installation space
- Requires a qualified rope access operator
Building Maintenance Units
A building maintenance unit (BMU) is an automatic, remote or controlled mechanical vehicle with a cradle that can be suspended from the roof. The unit moves around the upper level of a structure while carrying personnel, enabling them to conduct maintenance on the building.
- Wide working area
- Multiple person use
- Reduced risk level
- Suitable for tall buildings
- Large initial investment
- Limited ability for retro-fit to existing buildings
- Expensive and ongoing maintenance and recertification required sometimes several times throughout the year
- Large roof space needed to house the unit
- Greater risk of breakdown due to complex machinery
- High structural load requirements
Elevated Work Platforms
Elevated Work Platforms (EWPs) are mobile units used to provide temporary access for people or equipment to elevated areas. Often referred to as a "cherry pickers" or "scissor lifts", they are positioned below the work area and the platform is elevated to the height required. They are usually rented for the required length of the works.
Larger units can take up significant space on the ground and may necessitate the area around them to be barricaded off, with pedestrian and vehicle traffic diverted.
- Relatively low rental cost
- Versatile reach range
- Larger units can have significant sized footprints
- Generally two person use capacity
- Traffic management plans for road and footpath closures may be necessary
- Not suitable for very tall buildings
- Extended work time frames due to re-positioning of equipment
Rope Access (Abseil) Anchor Systems
Rope access anchors are a cost effective option when it is impractical to install larger permanent systems.
They are low maintenance, only requiring recertification 12 monthly, and are simple to use. Roof anchors offer the operator easy access to difficult to reach areas and require minimal set up time.
Roof anchors, such as the XPLORA range of rope access anchors, enable the operator to access difficult to reach areas easily.
- Low cost
- Ideal for narrow or difficult to reach areas
- Easily added to existing buildings
- Low maintenance
- Maximum yearly recertification
- Cannot be used on some glass / curtain facades as the rope loads may damage the facade
- In most cases single use only
- Requires skilled rope access (abseil) operators
For more information on our range of XPLORA rope access anchors read our XPLORA product overview.
Time is money and the time and effort required to install scaffolding, particularly on smaller jobs, can be cost prohibitive.
In light of recent tragic events which have seen the construction of scaffolding coming under scrutiny due to several collapses, there is even more emphasis on quality control and structural checks so you must ensure that the company you choose are fully qualified in this field.
- Access to most areas with relative ease once erected
- Long set up and removal times
- Time and cost can be excessive on small projects
The decision on which system to use for facade maintenance requires careful consideration but there is always a workable solution.
Each building is different and roof access and height safety is not a one size fits all, therefore you should always consult a height safety specialist to ensure the systems you are selecting and installing are compliant and fit for purpose.
The Sayfa team can assist you with new system designs or conduct auditing and /or system installation on your existing buildings.