ASTOUND AND HISTORIC BUILDINGS
Cleaning windows and clearing gutters on buildings that are often hundreds of years old creates unique challenges and requires sensitive solutions.
We’re always careful when cleaning windows on any buildings, but when working on historic buildings it’s necessary to go further and act with real sensitivity. Whether we’re ensuring that leaded windows are cleaned with the right materials and tools to avoid staining or unnecessary stress to the construction, or when we use special access equipment to avoid placing any kind of load on architectural features, we go as far as we can to protect your building.
‘Taking care’ isn’t just about the points at which we touch the building itself. Many historic buildings are situated within stunning grounds, expensively and carefully maintained. And often these buildings are open to the public. So we also take care to ensure that our work is suitably sympathetic to the grounds, the visitors and the staff. We have specific challenges around reaching high windows above flowerbeds, or ensuring our access equipment is safe on surfaces that were laid down well before Health and Safety legislation was a consideration.
When we’re asked to attend a building of very old construction, we know that we need to bring a different set of tools and resources. We simply can’t use the same cleaning materials that we would on a ‘normal’ building. Whilst we rarely use cleaning chemicals nowadays, we have to ensure that we’re taking a ‘pure water only’ approach to window cleaning, so that we do not affect either the window, lead or wood frames and the surrounding masonry which is likely to be quite old and possibly very affected by our work. This makes cleaning particularly dirty windows a problem, as we are reliant only on the inherent properties of pure water to clean dirt and keep it away. The temptation would be to use firmer brushes and more pressure but this is highly likely to cause damage. The answer is simply to take more time and use sympathetic methods. Cleaning these buildings should never be rushed.
Some of the guttering in older buildings can also be very old itself. We come across very aged lead guttering quite often, so we use methods which place the least possible physical pressure on the gutter and its supports. We also see architectural guttering, designed into the building itself. Again, we need to clean sympathetically to ensure no damage is caused, either on the day or as a lasting effect.
Whilst our core work is in cleaning buildings that act as offices or busy places such as Hotels and Hospitals, these Historic buildings provide us with a different challenge. Some of them are private residences but many are publicly accessible buildings. Whether this is because they are of historic interest, and therefore open to visitors interested in its past, or leisure buildings offering rooms or dining to customers, we need to work around people. And more specifically, people who may only visit once. Their impression of the building may be influenced by what’s going on, so it’s absolutely crucial that we’re as discreet as possible and as always, working as safely as possible to protect not only our staff, but also visitors to the building. We work with you to ensure that your visitors experience is as good as the days we aren’t there.
We work discreetly but visibly so that hazards presented by the work are visible to all. We feel that if we give the most professional impression, it can only benefit our clients by showing they look after the visitors and building equally.
At Astound we do not ask our clients to take out contracts. We work hard to retain happy customers through excellent service.
CASE STUDY – AMBERLEY CASTLE
Amberley Castle is an over 900 year old historic building based in West Sussex. Over a long and interesting history the building has evolved and expanded. Today it is a Hotel, open to the public, offering stunning views of the South Downs and with a fine restaurant.
Historic buildings such as Amberley inevitably have a variety of challenges, but for this case study we’re focusing on one in particular. It’s a good example of both the unusual challenges thrown up by historic buildings but also how a good Health and Safety solution can make a job easier and more successful.
Duration: 1 day
Located outside of the main walls of the castle is a building offering accommodation. Entering the building, there are rooms on either side, accessed via a hallway with an overhead vaulted glass ceiling, feeling like a small atrium.
The vaulted glass runs the full width of the building at the ceiling level (around 5m) and sits at the low point between two roofs. Either side of the glass is a flat area that is barely more than a foot wide each side. And at each end, is a low architectural feature that is maybe only 6 inches high.
All in all, this is a particularly tricky cleaning job. Our risk assessment identified that our team did not have enough space to work safely at height to clean the glass roof, and with an 8 foot drop to a concrete floor on either side, some kind of access equipment would be required in order to mitigate risk. Erection of a mobile tower by one of our PASMA qualified staff was considered, but due to the un-even nature of the ground surface this wouldn’t control risk to an acceptable level.
Our approach to this particular area of the building is a great example of how good project planning and qualified Health and Safety solutions can ensure a job is executed safely and to a high quality standard. We accessed the area using our van-mounted cherry picker and an IPAF qualified member of the team in order to gain access to clean the glass roof safely from the cherry picker basket using our light-weight reach and wash pole system.
This resulted in a very safe but effective solution to the problem whilst keeping the costs low for the customer through making use of our in-house equipment and qualified staff. It required more planning and preparation but as we surveyed the site beforehand we were able to identify these needs before conducting the works.