Innovative cleaning system enters Doha FM sector

An integrated, automated, curtain way cleaning system could soon replace the army of window cleaners in Doha

Kahramaa Tower will be the first project in Qatar to have the system installed by IKU.
Kahramaa Tower will be the first project in Qatar to have the system installed by IKU.

An innovative window and façade cleaning system is set to increasingly find its way into the FM sector in Doha. Gone is the need for precariously balancing window cleaners, armed with a bucket and wiper, dangling from a spider web thread-like rope, as they swing in the breeze trying their level best to clean the residue of the last sandstorm off your office window.

Replacing the army of window cleaners could soon be an integrated, automated, curtain wall cleaning system. Designed in Austria the system has been in the market place for fifteen years, undergoing continuous improvement, resulting in the effective system available for both existing and new buildings today.

“We are the license and patent holders of the system,” says Wayne Gearie, managing director of IKU windows. “We will tailor design the system with the architects or owners to project specifications with dimensions etc and supply the product to our authorised and specially trained fabricator, who will then fabricate accordingly and install onto the building with our support and supervision.” The system is convenient and adaptable to all façade systems and comes in options: unitised system (panel), structural glazing and cover cap (used also as a retro fit on the existing facades).

iku®windows is a complete façade system with an integrated self-cleaning function and the wipers blend into the architectural design of the building without affecting the overall appearance.

Connected directly to the building’s water supply, with a cleaning additive added to the water automatically via a mixer unit, the mixture is released on to the façade at the touch of a button.

The integrated wipers then clean the façade automatically. Settings can be customised, determining how much water is released on to the façade and for what duration, as can the frequency with which the wipers move over the façade. The flexible wipers ensure that the glass is always cleaned perfectly, while rain or moisture sensors can be used to trigger the cleaning process automatically.

In a city that starkly shows the effects of the dire combination of humidity and sand, maintenance is a priority for any building in Doha, with facilities management chewing off a significant portion of the building’s operational costs.

The system is nothing short of ingenious and benefits become increasingly evident as Gearie continues to elaborate. However, the most obvious benefit is that of HSE. The system completely removes the dangers of workers being injured or killed when cables snap on personnel platforms or repelling ropes break.

“The system is one of its kind in the world,” he adds and says with a chuckle, “In Doha, by the time the window cleaning team has finished a building, it’s time to start again!”

However, Gearie adds matter-of-factly: “With this system, if you are so inclined, you can clean the building every day.” While that wouldn’t necessarily fit into the 2030 vision of sustainability, the option is intriguing. Every day? “Yes, if you had to,” he assures.

“Once the system is in situ, it will clean a 50-storey building in five hours, at the push of a button and the approximate cost of around 10 Euros (QAR41) for energy and water.”

How is that even possible? Ivana Avakumovic, design manager explains. “In some countries, specifically in Europe, the water can be supplied by rain water, while in Qatar it could be recycled water. We provide a tie-in for the MEP and we supply the information to them, for instance the input should be six barres or more, depending also on the climate, size and shape of the building etc.

“The system is completely standardised however, all of our designs are designed by project because of varieties of architectural façade solutions,” she adds.

Although the panels are flat, a curved surface poses no problem as the area is generally facetted and the system is applicable at the curved surfaces as well. “We also have multiple options, using one field or two field wipers. Either option is run by one motor.

“However, while there is a lot of flexibility of design, there are limits,” she points out realistically. “You have to have a flat surface. Each extraordinary façade shape is a challenge to IKU engineers. We are upgrading and improving the system, extending those limits day by day.

“We normally have water runs 60 metres apart, but in the Middle East 30 is the norm, to counteract the effects of evaporation.”

“It’s also recommended to use the cleaning system at night when the temperatures are lower,” Gearie cautions.

The MD informs that the company is presently in discussions with Qatar’s Civil Defence as the system is basically an external dousing system operating on the outside of the building, which could aid in fire suppression and can be operated through the building management system (BMS).

Another potential use for the system would be cleaning the PhotoVoltaic panels in solar arrays, where dust accumulation adversely affects the productivity of the panels.

“Because of the scouring qualities of sand, the system would be fitted with a brush rather than a wiper for solar panels,” Gearie explains.

“It’s been already used for snow cleaning in Europe. Of course, maintenance is very important as with any other mechanism, including our cars,” he says, adding that IKU is providing 10 years of warranty extendable.

While there is the initial investment, the sustainability qualities are soon rewarded with ROI within two to three years, Avakumovic adds.

The system’s components are manufactured in Europe and once in Qatar, supplied to approved fabricators and assembled.

With dust and rain something that won’t be leaving Qatar any time soon, the iku®windows system is sure to leave a visible difference behind.

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