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Why Building Maintenance Units

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 1:05:43 PM Asia/Calcutta

BMUs are not necessarily essential for all kinds of buildings. They are most suitable for high rises and terrace periphery is suitable for common motorized roof equipment, says Khushru Tampal, Mazda Hospitality Services, a facility management company based in Mumbai.

“Besides, not every building has necessarily got a BMU,” asserts Rakesh Lal, Proprietor, Classic Maintenance Services, a facility management company based in New Delhi. It depends on the requirement of the building’s design and risk factors and sometimes on the client. “We have seen simple five to six-storey buildings with trolleys. We have also seen multi-storey buildings or more than 10 floors where BMUs are essential and there are no systems installed. I think it depends on the mind set of the architect and building owners. In my view, both BMU and spiderman system are safe means of cleaning façade, if handled professionally.”

Apart from the height of the building, the choice of the BMU system also depends on the complexity of the façade and the space available on the terrace. “In many of the cases BMU may not be efficient and a cost effective system,” says Khushru.

BMUs are not just used for cleaning the façade but in maintaining the exteriors tool. In the event of a cract or a breakage in any of the glasses, it can be easily replaced if the access system is in place.

“In the absence of a proper access system, maintenance of the building façade becomes an expensive affair,” says Samir Khan, Managing Director, Window Washers, Mumabi. The company is directly servicing the hotel sector and is working with FM companies in commercial buildings.

In fact, when it comes to replacing just a single glass of the façade, no vendor would want to take up the job. Simply because the expense of installing the glass would be more than the galss itself, explains Samir. With proper access system in place, it is easier for the vendor to replace galss or clean it up. Even though it is not cost effective to attend to one glass in buildings, the hotels with no access systems are still prepared to spend money for the replacement of even one glass because a broken glass can mar their image.

According to Khushru, there are mostly four types of façade access systems that are attached to a building structure for cleaning and maintenance:

  • Manual: Jib/Davit with Manual Gandola
  • Semi Motorised: Jib/Davit wit Motorized Gandola
  • Fully Motorised: (BMU)
    Motirised Terrace Trolley &
    Motorised Gandola, Manorail with
    Motorised Traversing Rollers &
    Motorised Gandola.
  • Spiderman Technique

In Mumbai, Mazda is working with the simple eye bolts & spiderman technique at HDFC-Chandivali; Aluminum quick fit staging/scaffold at the Times of India-Kandivali; Special purpose tailor made equipment at Bayer Crop Science; Monorail system at ICICI Ventures; Trackless trolley at AMBIT and Purpose made trolley system at Raheja Bay.

“The other methods utilized to access the façade for cleaning include ground supported equipment like electro-hydraulic platforms, acess ladders, aluminum quick fit staging/scaffold Z-boom lifts and aerial lift.”

Mazda is also using trolleys, jibs, scaffoldings, aerial platforms, telescoping rods and access rope (spiderman system) at various sites. “At Unitech or the Asia Pacific Institute of Management, where the BMUs are in place, we get to use them.”

Cleaning aids/schedule

Cleaning as such should be done with quality products, belives Khushru. “The basic things required to actually clean the façade are glass applicators, glass squeegees, scrapers, buckets, dusters and glass cleaners & chemicals to remove the silicon and water marks from the surface.”

Most of time, explains Rakesh, accessories and chemicals are decided by the client. “We prefer galss cleaner liquid of Taski-R3 and other accessories of Unger.”

A simple squeegee, applicator and non-alkaline chemical of Schevaran Laboratories are what Window Washers use for cleaning. “We tried using Chinese material for cleaning but it required frequent replacement. Unger tools have been found very compatible,” adds Samir.

The need and frequency for cleaning facades depends on the type of industry. The hospitality industry and malls need regular cleaning while other industries can make do with quarterly or half yearly cleaning schedule. Besides the frequency, Rakesh feels, facades should be cleaned only at the scheduled time of the day. “One should not clean the galss under direct sunlight. Schedule should be made in accordance to the angle of the sunlight and shadow of the building Cleaning should also be avoided when it is raining.”

“It is better to clean every alternate month but that again depends on the clients. Some clients are very particular about regular cleaning while some are not,” opines Khushru.

“In the hotels, façade cleaning is all the more important, as the room charges are based on the view outside. From the outside of the hotel, galss may look clean but from inside the room, even a small speckle can mar the view. Hence, regular cleaning is unavoidable. Our trained boys are employed on a monthly basis to clean the hotel façade regularly. If it is big hotel, one round of cleaning would take a month to complete while in smaller hotels we can finish at least two rounds in the month,” explains Samir.

With offices in Mumbai, MP and Kolkata and operations all over India.

Window washers is cleaning hotels like Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, Tunga Hotels and Royal Palms Hotels. Most of the hotels do not have the access systems and “we use the spiderman technique or the gandolas”.

The cleaning of a façade depends on how fast the job needs to be done. “At four Seasons, we have placed six boys who complete cleaning the 34-storey building in one month. In case the client wants it to be completed in 15 days, we can always deploy more staff and systems and get the work done.”

Gandolas are neither easy to use nor are safe and have led to many accidents, says Samir. The company employs around 50 trained façade cleaners and uses around 40 systems. The rope systems are both locally made and imported but are CE approved (European Certification).

At Classic Maintenance Services, more than 100 men are trained in the spiderman technique. These workers are first initiated as helpers at the site for at least tow to three months before letting them do the actual job. At the training session the workers are taught how to tie the knot to the rope, where to tie the rope, how to use descenders and about fall-arrest, harness, carabineers and safety belt. In fact, there is a huge gap between the the supply and demand of such workers. To an extent there is a monopoly of the spiderman technique in façade cleaning even though it is a very risky job,” opines Rakesh.

Indian scenario

“In India, it is not mandatory or statuary to put up the Façade Cleaning System, which is not the case in other countries. It all depends on choice of a client. Now there are more and more clients willing to spend for dedicated system. Developers and corporate have realized that, it is better to clean façade regularly rather than spending a lot of money in replacing the façade at a later date. They have also realized that for replacement of façade at any given stage will need proper façade access/cleaning systems, rather than erecting scaffolding. The façade cleaning system can also be used for installation & future maintenance work,” explains Khushru.

Rakesh adds, “There is a huge market for façade cleaning in India but more than 80% of the market is captured by the unorganized sector. There are instances of clients getting their façade cleaning done by the traditional “Jhoola wala”, whol work at a very low price. On the other hand, in place where trolleys of any make have installed, only 20% are in working condition while 80% trolleys/ BMUs have broken down. There is a huge shortage of trained mechanics to handle the installation and operations of these permanent solutions, i.e. trolleys / BMUs. India needs more professionals and trainers to develop more number of technicians to bridge the gap between supply and demand of BMUs.

High rises should have BMUs

The geometry of building envelopes day-by-day are getting complicated. There needs to be a system to reach the place on the faced to clean and maintain the glass, says Mahesh Arumugam, Managing Director, Meinhardt Façade Technology, Chennai. Leading façade consultants accorss Australasia, Meinhardt has presence in about 28 countries and has a  staff of over 3000. “A regular cleaning cycle is a must for such structures because dust settles on glass. If one tries to clean the glass after a long period, the glass could develop scratches, the sealant may get damaged or the glass could deteriorate. In order to preserve the performance of the façade, in terms of air infiltration, water leakage, etc., periodical cleaning is essential. This will give the façade long-lasting life.”

Talking about the type of BMU which depends on the building envelope, Arumugam says, “The design element of some structures is such that façade access becomes difficult.” In design where every floor is shifted at an angle by a few metres to the inside and the distance between the top and the ground floor is over 30m, the access to the inclinations even with the rope system becomes difficult. “Hence in such cases we have recommended installation of winches.”

Any BMU system has to be planned at the concept schematic stage itself.

“In case of high rise vertical buildings, roof-mounted BMUs are ideal, as one cannot put up self-climbing cradle above 40m. This is because of power fluctuations above 40m. Otherwise the cradle could go off the wheel. It cannot restrain. In case of inclinations in design, cradles could be used with proper guided channels inside the façade. This can be done two ways. One with the channels designed inside the extrusion so that the four-wheel roller can run with the hose and the cradle can hold parallel to the façade with a 250mm gap. Alternately, the cradle could run with the controlled rope.

“In case of a stone façade, at every three-metre height, there should be tie-back points at the junction of the granite so that the cradle can tie back to the façade.

Some clients are positive and install the BMU at the schematic stage while some others do not plan and are skeptical to invest on such systems. In such cases, clients depend on the facility management companies and vendors who are given the maintenance contract. “These vendors go up on gondolas or use cradles with counterweight on the rooftop. In the absence of BMU systems, such alternatives lead to accidents and maintenance turns into a risky affair. It is essential that architects look at the BMU system at the drawing stage itself, especially in the case of high rises.