Scheduling the facade cleaning of this iconic building in Abu Dhabi is a tall order! – Zenifer Khaleel
The magnificent skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi city gleam for a reason. They are methodically and periodically cleaned to perfection to maintain their sheen. Located at the Southern end of the Corniche, the Nation Towers are amongst the tallest buildings in the capital. The complex consists of two towers (268 m and 233 m, respectively) and the Nation Galleria (shopping mall) at its base. The towers are connected by a foot bridge, which is the highest interconnecting structure in the world. Scheduling the façade cleaning of a building with such varied dimensions is a challenging task, to say the least. The two towers comprise a 5-star deluxe hotel (St Regis), loft apartments, office space, retail area, recreational amenities, beach club, roof top swimming pool etc.
Frequency of cleaning
The frequency of cleaning is solely determined by the Nation Towers’ management based on their agreement with the landlord and tenants such as the St. Regis Hotel and the Mall. A carefully tailored schedule dramatically reduces the incidence of unplanned repair and thus minimises disruption. The adoption of a planned maintenance strategy optimises whole life performance of the different entities involved. At the beginning of the year, a periodic schedule is determined by the management who in turn communicates it to all the relevant tenants and gets their approval. From that point on, it is constant communication between all the main parties ICT, Mall Management, St Regis and their various sub-contractors, restaurants, etc. to plan and inform about the frequency and execution of the cleaning process. Any delays that may be incurred, such as wind, special requirements of work timings and functions and also availability of equipment on site (like the boomlift) etc., have to be communicated effectively across all these sectors.
Since there are different frequencies on the towers, they require different cleaning schedules as well. For instance, the hotel’s requirement is to be cleaned 6 times per annum. The residential tower only requires 4 times per annum. The mall’s requirements are 4 cleans per annum.
Scheduling the facade cleaning
Grako LLC has been entrusted with the upkeep of the gleam and glamour of the Nation Towers. The company was established during the property, tourist and business boom of 2004. Public appearance of their buildings was of paramount importance, and the UAE Government and Municipality therefore started implementing strict regulations to meet new standards of Health & Safety and Building Cleanliness. “Abu Dhabi has always been associated with high standards and has some of the most iconic buildings in the world. To ensure the buildings are kept pristine and shining, there are a number of challenges that must be overcome to maintain the expectations of the government, building owners and residents, especially when considering the external facades of the many high rise buildings and skyscrapers” says Pieter Van Der Walt, Head of Operations, Grako LLC., Abu Dhabi. He continues, “Nations Towers in Abu Dhabi is a project that typically poses some of the challenges relating to high-level façade cleaning. It includes two towered skyscrapers, which is situated on Abu Dhabi Corniche. One has 62 storeys and the other 51. Given the height of the building, the prestigious location (near the corniche) and often inclement weather conditions in this area, Grako LLC has to work very closely with the buildings facilities management team to ensure the works are completed safely, on time and professionally.”Coordinating and scheduling all the work required for Nation Towers is a challenge as Grako is dealing with essentially 3 distinct clients in one complex, namely,
1. International Capital Trading
2. St. Regis Hotel
3. Nation Towers Mall management
The requirements from the different parties vary in timing, availability of areas for work and tenant requirements. “For instance St. Regis’ restaurants have external areas for breakfast and functions. We will only schedule our work during the lean hours when these areas are not occupied and prior notice will be given to the management. All the cleaning work on the mall has to be done during non-operating hours. This will also vary between the different areas within the mall,” explains Van Der Walt.
Safety is always the underpinning factor with the emphasis on prevention and project planning. Typically, on this type of building, rope access is preferred due to the shape and height of the building and the unpredictable weather. All of Grako LLC rope access technicians are professionally trained IRATA Certified and trained in emergency rescue procedures.
Prior to any project a rigorous risk assessment is carried out to ensure the work can be done safely and any potential HSE issues are accounted for with the addition of working closely with the FM company to ensure that all the work is coordinated and planned to consider the multiple interfaces, which are expected on Nations Towers, such as residents, office workers, hotel guests and other workers.
Rope access also trumps the use of cradles on this tower due to the fact that rope access tends to be quicker – as many people required to clean can be used (Grako uses up to 10) and a large chunk of the building can be cleaned in one go. Pressurized water is usually applied to the surface of the building initially to remove any stubborn dirt, then traditional cleaning methods are used afterwards especially during glass cleaning (applicator & wiper). Additionally, consideration has to be given to the environment when using cleaning chemicals along with the preservation of the building. Grako LLC uses a number of chemicals to ensure these requirements are met, and where possible they use nano-technology, which involves chemicals that help repel dirt, preserve the façade and provide a longer shine to the glass surface without harming the environment. Throughout the project, the works are overseen by a senior project manager and a health and safety manager who ensure safety and quality are maintained.
The special requirements for Nation towers
A few considerations in planning the schedule for this project are
1. Areas with restaurants and pools cannot be scheduled on weekends to accommodate the guests, so they do not work on Fridays and Saturdays.
2. Working on the hotel tower is restricted to a starting time of 9 am to accommodate the hotel guests. Guests in the hotel are also informed of the cleaning that is in progress and that alleviates much of the tension.
3. Work in the restaurant areas can only start from 11 a.m. onwards, since breakfast is served in Rhodes 44 restaurant until 11am and arrangements have been made with the hotel to start late and finish late. This, however, is only for a few days during every cycle.
4. Mall work can only be done at night after 11 p.m. The mall and podium take up to 20 days to complete all areas. That is also subject to client and weather delays.
5. The interconnecting bridge has to be cleaned 4 times per annum, and it has to be done very carefully with rope access due to its height and structure.
The nature of businesses of the different segments of Nation Towers call for different time schedules, which has to be coordinated and managed effectively without interrupting the running operations. For a project this diverse, good communication across the various sectors is what facilitates the smooth and efficient façade cleaning schedules.
“It is very unlikely that we miss a schedule, as we have a team permanently on site and the planning that goes into it is very precise. Yes, there are sometimes delays at the start of the cleaning schedules due to delays from wind and client/tenant delays of various reasons. But, this is easily managed through good communication. If we are behind schedule, we double the team to catch up,” explains Van Der Walt.