Cleaning windows is tricky enough at the best of times, but when the glass is on the world’s tallest building it is a complete pain (pardon the pun).
Soaring 2,717ft into the air above Dubai and with 1,292,500 sq ft of glass to keep spic and span, the £1billion Burj Khalifa presented a unique problem for maintenance teams. Dale Harding, the general manager of window cleaning company Cox Gomyl, said the firm installed £5million of hi-tech equipment, including unique window-cleaning carousels which they designed, to ensure the Burj Khalifa looks its best.
Twelve machines weighing 13 tons carry up to 36 cleaners, who use ordinary soapy water to wash down the Burj’s 24,830 reflective windows in a process that takes three months from top to bottom.
The cleaners stand on the specially designed machines, which emerge from cavities in the skyscraper and track along rails skirting its curved towers.
Mr Harding said the company, based in Melbourne, Australia, had been working overtime to get the Burj gleaming for Monday’s extravagant opening ceremony.
He said: ‘It’s an enormous challenge. The architects had some fairly high expectations.
‘It’s an iconic building with high exposure. They wanted it as clean as possible, particularly for the opening. There have been some fairly tight deadlines over the past few months.
‘It’s an incredible construction. People are focusing on the height of the building but the sheer size of it, the footprint, is huge. It’s really 10-15 conventional buildings.’
The 35-year-old, originally from Tyne and Wear, and his company Total Solutions Middle East, worked on the pre-fabricated spire of the building for more than a month before it was officially unveiled to the world.
His daily commute to work involved him taking five lifts to the 160th floor, climbing through a further seven tiers on vertical ladders, then squeezing into the 6ft wide spire and out of a hatch.
Mr Flaherty said: ‘I felt like I could see the whole world. It was absolutely breathtaking.
‘As you climb up the ladders you open this little door and all you see is blue sky. The sun feels amazingly close. It just leaves you speechless.
‘I’ve been going abseiling for over nine years but even I was twitching with fear the first time I climbed out. It’s the pinnacle of my career. Nothing will ever come close to doing that again.’
The work, which took more than month from the start of last August, was so gruelling that the team involved nicknamed themselves the ‘Men Of Steel’.
Mick said: ‘We would abseil about 200ft down. As the building swayed about you were just left bouncing around on all your ropes.
‘It was totally exhausting because you were up and down ladders all day.
‘There was a platform inside where you could eat your lunch but you were a long way from your nearest toilet or water supply.’
The job is now set to enter the Guinness Book of Records as the highest rope access work ever completed.