Glass city: ‘The architects really went to town’

TRICKY: Goleman Group window cleaners were working on the Deloitte building on Tuesday. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER

Demand for window and glass cleaning has risen since the quakes as new buildings have popped up. Bridget Rutherford reports

Walking through the central city, all you need to do is look up and you see glass.

It seems almost every new building that has popped up since the February 22, 2011, earthquake has incorporated it into the design.

But with glass, comes the much trickier job of cleaning it – and cleaning companies are seeing the demand skyrocket.

Goleman Group chief executive Joel Matsis said it has seen a massive increase in demand for window and glass cleaning services since the earthquakes.

“Before the quakes, we were very much the only company in town,” he said.

“There’s a lot more competition out there in the market. It’s good to keep us on our toes.”

Goleman Group specialises in window and glass cleaning, including high rise buildings, and anything on the outside of commercial buildings.

Mr Matsis said before the quakes, the buildings were relatively boring and the windows were easier to access and clean.

New buildings had more glass and different angles, so they were a lot more technical to clean and expensive, he said.

“The architects really went to town,” he said.

“Around the central city, a lot more buildings are coming up with a lot more glass. On all the new buildings, the glass is very noticeable.”

But with the new buildings has come different ways to clean them. Previously, they were a lot taller, so more rope access was required.

However, now the height limit has been reduced, windows could be accessed using machinery, which was a lot faster, Mr Matsis said.

He said Goleman Group had purchased more machinery as a result.

In Christchurch, Goleman Group has about 30 technicians, 20 of whom were on the window cleaning high ropes.

All staff had comprehensive training before being able to start working on the ropes.

Every building had different requirements when it came to cleaning its windows. They had just finished doing the HSBC Building on Worcester Boulevard, and were cleaning the Deloitte building this week.

“Safety has got to be the priority.’’

Many people approached the company wanting jobs for the thrill of it.

“After six months it’s just another job,’’ Mr Matsis said.

JetX manager Marc Walker had “definitely” seen a jump in demand in the past two or three years as the central city buildings were constructed.

“In terms of window cleaning and abseilers, work has doubled at least,” he said. “These new facades are just glass, glass, glass.”

He said they had about seven or eight abseilers, many of whom had backgrounds in rock climbing or abseiling so they did not have a problem with heights. All were specially trained.

“We’re finding it’s getting busier and busier.”

Mr Walker said some of the new buildings were not practical to clean, which meant they took a lot longer.

They had worked on high rise buildings such as the PWC building, the Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, Grand Central and The Crossing.

Mr Walker said PWC would have taken four abseilers about a week to do. The Justice and Emergency Services Precinct would take a lot longer because of its sheer size, he said.

Ministry of Justice commercial and property general manager Fraser Gibbs said it was finalising a contract for the regular cleaning of the precinct’s windows.

“It is anticipated that the ground floor windows will be cleaned once a month while the windows above ground level will be washed every three months (quarterly) by abseilers.”

Mr Gibbs was unable to say what the ongoing costs would be as it was commercially sensitive and subject to negotiation.

Meanwhile, the cost of cleaning the outside of the city council’s civic offices’ windows is $56,000 annually.

Head of facilities, property and planning Bruce Rendall said several different contractors were used to clean the windows.

He said the exterior windows were normally cleaned quarterly, which required abseilers.

It was currently trialling whether the frequency could be reduced which would lower the $56,000 cost.