Expertise. Intuition. Ingenuity.
Expertise. Intuition. Ingenuity.
“Building façades are architectural statements with sophisticated and intricate envelopes. Architects around the world explore the limits of façade design creating buildings which attract tenants and capture the interest of the surrounding community. Additionally, a building’s façade is expected to provide protection from weather, comfort, safety, etc., whilst allowing natural light to enter the occupants’ usable space. It also increasingly forms a significant part of a building’s overall aesthetic. Façade cleaning and maintenance can be demanding due to its customised nature. In some instances, systems need to be designed to suit a tight operating space, whilst meeting the requirement to lift heavy façade panels and plant components during the service life of the development. All of the above can be captured as part of the façade access consultancy scope from the very early concept stages, through project management, to practical completion and beyond, to seek the ideal solution to building maintenance which is code compliant whilst being cost-effective.”
Director - Façade Access, TÜV SÜD Dunbar Boardman
Monday, February 06, 2022
The issue of aesthetics first comes to mind. After all, a clean building presents a more hospitable front - and therefore a more attractive real estate prospect - to the public. As the challenge grows to develop more individual and impressive buildings, increasing emphasis is being placed on the building façade with respect to the detail, quality and proportion of overall budget attributable to the building façade. Like all building elements, façades can be subject to soiling and structural deterioration, often accelerated by exposure to weathering and pollutants. To ensure that façades remain aesthetically pleasing, functional and structurally sound, a well-planned, economical and effective cleaning and maintenance regime is a prime concern in the overall design concept.
Of course, not all building façades warrant the same amount of care and attention. A building’s location, function, and geographic and atmospheric conditions all play their part in determining the level of cleaning effort necessary to achieve the desired appearance.
The Building Research Establishment notes that all façades require a degree of maintenance if they are to fulfil their intended working purpose and that, in the event of failure, tenants, owners or occupiers could have “a legal liability for personal injury caused to staff, all visitors to your building, and members of the public in the vicinity”.
Damage or deterioration to façade elements can result in water penetration, falling debris and, in extreme cases, façade failure — all of which have the potential to cause harm. Such issues often originate from lack of regular routine maintenance and proper care of the building façade.
Practical, economical and effective maintenance should therefore be a key consideration in the overall design concept. As the building maintenance strategy is in place throughout the lifespan of a building, the development process for an effective façade access solution should be long-term - and getting it right is critical. However, as façade access is a specialist field, there is limited expertise within the construction industry worldwide.
Façade maintenance ranges from regular cleaning of the glazing to the replacement of failed panels to a conditional survey by a specialist, all of which should be undertaken by suitably qualified and experienced person. This is because to the experienced eye, there may be indications of potential failure, months or even years before the failure actually occurs. Furthermore, operatives can be exposed to the hazard of falling from height and these risks may occur due to several reasons including:
The demand for residential, commercial or public developments is apparent everywhere which puts pressure on usable space. This creates a need for roof-based services (PVs, landscape, etc.) particularly for high-quality offices.
Negotiation with planning, technical and urban issues result in demand for compact façade access to blend within roof space.
Regardless of the FAE’s position, coverage can be challenging on buildings with complex façades. Unconventional façades produce problems of their own and particularly when replacement of glass needs to be considered.
Once the panel is installed, it will usually last beyond the lifespan of the building, unless the façade is subjected to an external force. After the practical completion of a building, individual panel failure is extremely rare. It is more likely that glass panels are replaced because of warranty failure. An option that is frequently considered is to use the roof-mounted FAE to lift panels or other sections of the façade.
In other instances, panels can be replaced from the inside either by delivering them via a goods lift subject to lift car design. Moreover, clear operating zones are essential for transporting the glazing manipulator (and panel) within the building to the replacement location.
The effects imposed upon the building structure by ‘in-service’ and ‘fall arrest’ loads from the operation and storage of FAE are significant and should be coordinated with the structural engineers from the outset. Loading paths through the structure should be taken into consideration when evaluating the reactions of the façade access systems, to include all its operational and stored positions when fully loaded.
The equipment connections on the structure should be defined during the earliest possible design stages so that the correct provision can be made for the fixings to be integrated within the roof finish, and to allow periodic inspections.
Undeniably important factors, such as safety and stability, are determined by local regulatory codes and industry standards, and they should be incorporated in the design calculations of the FAE and building structure.
The very wide and diverse requirements for building access systems highlight the importance of a totally impartial, independent consultancy to identify and resolve the specific requirements. “Off-the-shelf” equipment may not be appropriate, and the designer requires a comprehensive knowledge of the real capability of companies in the field and the ingenuity to develop appropriate cost-effective schemes. A building-specific solution has to be reached often with a degree of technical innovation and an open mind. This process should not be solely based on advice from suppliers, as this will be restricted to their own specific knowledge, capabilities and equipment.
Our design planning team brings extensive experience and innovation to planning permanent access equipment for exterior and interior maintenance - helping to ensure the highest degree of equipment effectiveness that is compatible with the building’s design, the owners’ investment and cleaning time analysis.
Want help with your façade access design? Contact our façade access consultants today.
About the Author:
Mohamed Merchant is Director - Façade Access at TÜV SÜD Dunbar Boardman, Europe’s leading elevator, escalator and access consultancy. Mohamed has 22 years’ experience in mechanical engineering, including 20 years in the façade access industry. During this time, he has designed and delivered façade access strategies and systems for major developments within the UK, Europe and Middle East, including high rise residential and commercial office developments, retail centres, refurbishment projects, hotels, hospitals and historic buildings.
Façade access is an important part of a building’s maintenance and is a highly specialised service.
Mohamed Merchant, Director - Façade Access, explains how to ensure your building's façade warranty remains valid.