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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

New Technology Drives Window Cleaning Industry

Written by  Mark Unger

Many building service contractors (BSCs) outsource their window cleaning to professional window cleaning companies due to liability and safety concerns combined with the perceived complexity of the task at hand. However, with new technology, all BSCs can profitably clean exterior glass up to 50 feet without the past safety risks.

It is well known that working at heights is dangerous and even fatal. No employer wants to put his staff at risk. However, window cleaning is often associated with ladders, bozun chairs and scaffolds. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, fatal work injuries involving falls, including those from ladders and scaffolds, increased five percent in 2006. A total of 809 fatal falls were reported, the third highest total since 1992 when the fatality census began. These statistics can lead many BSCs to simply leave the risk to a sub contractor, thereby giving up valuable margin on the total building profitability.

The use of telescopic poles has been popular for more than 30 years, but their effectiveness becomes limited above 24 feet. Specialized skills are needed to efficiently use a pole with a squeegee and washer above these heights. Fortunately, new technology has been driving the window cleaning industry to make the task safer and faster over the past decade.   The popularity of all glass buildings and the requirement of more natural light to meet green building standards are causing a spike in demand for professional window cleaning. The advent of water-fed poles in conjunction with purified water is providing the solution for the 21st century.   With water-fed poles, the traditional way to clean windows with a washer and squeegee is replaced by brushing the window surface with purified water. The brush takes the dirt off the glass and the water dries completely clean due to the use of purified water. Combine the process with a telescopic pole and windows can be easily cleaned up to 50 feet.   The cleaning professional remains safely on the ground while performing the entire operation. For windows at heights of up to 50 feet, there is no need for ladders, rigging, gondolas or scaffolds. In initial time studies when compared to bozun chair work, the time savings are staggering at 50 to 80 percent. The fall liability is eliminated and the results are perfectly clean.   The two components of the water-fed pole system are pure water and the pole with a brush. Water naturally contains minerals and salts. If tap water is used in this process, the water will dry with a residue, leaving unacceptable results. By removing the impurities and getting to pure water, the water left behind on the window will dry clear.   The telescopic poles have also evolved to meet the requirements of this specialized task. The most advanced systems are modular and made of composite materials, such as carbon fiber. Identical pole sections are connected to each other with specialized adapters that allow the pole to remain stiff up to 50 feet while still being light enough for one person to operate.

The technology of purified water with high-tech poles is certain to change the industry as we know it. In Europe, this process has gained popularity as laws have restricted ladder use and window cleaners are dramatically increasing productivity. The environmental impact is also positive as only pure water is used and no chemicals are required.   For U.S. building service contractors, this new technology can have the same positive impact as in Europe. Safety and liability concerns are reduced while profitability is increased. The end result of beautiful, clean windows and satisfaction from your customers remains the same.

Mark Unger is president of Unger Enterprises. For more information, visit www.ungerglobal.com.

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