For buildings to look good and function better for a long time, maintenance is a necessary activity. The building aesthetic, especially, has a bearing on street appeal, the profile of its occupants as well as the perceived value of the property. When it comes to commercial buildings, the facade definitely influences the company’s corporate image.
Facade maintenance is an ongoing requirement and particularly labour- and equipment-intensive when it comes to multi-storeyed buildings. It involves hiring skilled workers as well as expensive equipment to enable safe access for window cleaning or other maintenance tasks. Traffic management, and footpath and road closures may also have to be included into the work plan.
Many glass or curtain wall facades don't have loadbearing capabilities. Therefore, any rope access (abseil) over these facades must be independently supported to prevent any pressure or force being applied on the facade.
For ongoing maintenance, it’s important to integrate roof access, fall protection and facade maintenance systems into the building plan at the design stage itself so that due consideration is given to the safety aspect.
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.
What are your options when it comes to ensuring safe and simple maintenance for building facades?
Various systems are available allowing personnel to maintain facades, all with varying degrees of user functionality and safety. All of these systems require trained personnel to operate them so it is important that only qualified and experienced workers use them.
When selecting the most appropriate facade maintenance system for your building, factors such as the type of facade, materiality and structural integrity must be considered.
Types of facade maintenance systems include Rope Access (Abseil) - Rigid Rail, Davit Systems and Rope Access Anchors; Building Maintenance Units (BMUs); Elevated Work Platforms (EWPs); and Scaffolding.
Rigid Rail/ Davit Systems
Rigid rail systems are increasingly being used for facade maintenance as they offer a cost-effective and time-saving solution with 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.
Thanks to its versatility and minimal aesthetic impact, davits are very popular in the facade maintenance sector. Davits can also be supplied on a rigid rail system, which allows the operator to roll along the length of the facade, thus reducing the time required to manually reposition themselves.
For more information on Sayfa Group’s RAPTOR rigid rail systems, read this RAPTOR product overview.
Key advantages include easy access to difficult-to-reach areas; effortless mobility; low maintenance and dust resistance; multiple user capability; easily extended to cater for future requirements; little to no aesthetic impact and can be concealed; and compact system, not requiring a large installation space.
However, RAPTOR rigid rail systems require 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.
Key advantages include wide working area; multiple person use; reduced risk level; and suitable for tall buildings.
Limitations include large initial investment; limited potential for retrofitting to existing buildings; expensive and ongoing maintenance and recertification required several times throughout the year; large roof space needed to house the unit; greater risk of breakdown due to complex machinery; and 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 ‘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 duration of the maintenance task.
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.
Advantages include relatively low rental cost and versatile reach range.
Limitations include significant footprint for larger units; two-person capacity; traffic management plans required for road and footpath closures; not suitable for very tall buildings; and extended work timeframes due to repositioning 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 annually, and are simple to use. Roof anchors offer the operator easy access to difficult-to-reach areas and require minimal setup time.
Roof anchors, such as the XPLORA range of rope access anchors, enable the operator to access difficult-to-reach areas easily.
Key advantages include flexibility, low cost, perfect solution for narrow or difficult areas, easy integration to existing buildings, and low maintenance.
Limitations include annual recertification requirement; unusable on some glass/ curtain facades as the rope loads may damage the facade; single use only in most cases; and requirement for skilled rope access (abseil) operators.
For more information on Sayfa’s range of XPLORA rope access anchors, read the XPLORA product overview.
Installing scaffolding necessitates considerable time and effort, and could be expensive, especially on smaller jobs. Recent tragic events involving the collapse of scaffolding underline the importance of quality control and structural checks during its construction. Ensure that the company you choose is fully qualified in this field.
Scaffolding allows easy access to most areas. However, one has to deal with the long setup and removal times, and the excessive time and cost on small projects.
Each building is unique; therefore, systems for roof access and height safety cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. Please consult with a height safety specialist to ensure the systems you are selecting and installing for facade maintenance are compliant and fit for purpose.
Sayfa Group can assist you with new system designs or conduct auditing and/or system installation on your existing buildings.