Making Things Right – when roof anchors are an afterthought

af·ter·thought: /ˈaftərˌTHôt/ noun: an item or thing that is thought of or added later.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes the case with anchor or access systems on newly built properties. For all the flash and promise of life-changing lifestyle experience outlined in the fancy pre-sale brochure, something as simple as to how windows will be accessed and cleaned is often overlooked.

This was the case at The Flats, located on east Georgia, in Vancouver’s Chinatown. The new trendy modern 9 story structure was completed in 2014 and houses 29 condo units. 

We were initially approached by Tribe management in the fall of 2021, asked to provide a window cleaning and dryer vent quote for the property. We were warned that other companies had looked at the building and were unable to provide a quote, due to access issues. The building not only lacked roof anchors that could be used for rope access work, it also had power lines and other obstacles at ground level, which made elevated platform (boom lift) access impossible. 

After attending the site and making our initial assessment, we came to the conclusion that the only viable solution would be to install anchors at roof level. We engaged our construction services division to provide a deeper analysis and to provide a proposal detailing the number of anchors and locations proposed. Since some of the anchors would need to be located on the penthouse balcony, aesthetics needed to be considered and owners consulted in the process. 

In late winter, our proposal was accepted and the anchors were installed in spring of 2022, providing a safe, long-term solution for access to the exterior facade.

“I was so glad to find a company that could provide a quote for all the services we needed, AND also solve our access issues. I love that Black Tie is a one stop shop.” – Lara Carino, Community Manager, Tribe Management Inc.

It is important to note that our team is uniquely positioned to offer the most comprehensive and cost-effective solution when it comes to anchor system. Being intimately familiar with rope access regulation, we will provide a proposal that will ensure all areas of the building can be accessed safely, with the minimum number of anchors possible.

The Flats is one example of a problematic building, but we frequently come across similar issues, especially with 5 to 7 story wood frame buildings, that are too tall to be cleaned from the ground, and have no anchors that can be used for rope access or suspended work platforms. While we aim at educating developers and builders, we sometimes have to deal with what is clearly and afterthought. If you manage one of these problematic buildings, please contact us, and we will gladly help find the best solution for your property, working closely with owners or strata council to get to the best outcome.

Chemical Clean – Why & When you need to book (hint – it’s soon!)

Most property managers are somewhat familiar with the terms “acid wash”, or “chemical clean”. But how can you determine with certainty if this is needed? And what factors should you consider before booking the service? Below, we will answer these questions and provide some helpful guidelines around booking your next acid wash.

Why does the building need this?

So, you just had the windows cleaned on a building you manage, and were told “This will need an acid wash”. 

Those comments may have come directly from your service provider, or may be the result of several complaints from residents, pointing at their stained windows and demanding better results. Whatever the case, the cause of staining on glass will generally fall into one of two categories:

  1. Construction debris: On newer buildings, it is not uncommon to find that the initial post-construction clean was not done as thoroughly as required. We quite often find remnants of silicone, paint or exterior membrane that was not cleaned off properly. It is also very common to find mineral deposits or concrete slurry resulting from rain water dripping down from the unfinished concrete slab and onto the glass, during the construction process. An acid wash or chemical clean will definitely be needed to remove those stains. 
  2. Mineral deposit accumulation or hard water stains: This type of staining occurs over time, and is caused by rain water hitting various surfaces on a building. The raindrops pick up minerals, and subsequently drip down and dry on the  glass, leaving stains that look like water spots. This is very common on brick buildings or buildings that have elements of uncoated concrete or aluminum. 

In both instances, an acid wash will be required to remove those stains.

Example of glass and window frames stained with minerals leaching from brick and mortar above.

Example of stained railing glass resulting from water hitting the concrete pavers and splashing on the glass and staining it over time

What does the process look like?

The most effective product to remove mineral deposits from glass surfaces is hydrofluoric acid. This product is extremely toxic and presents a serious health hazard to workers if not handled with proper care. It also has the potential to damage glass and other surfaces it comes in contact with, so doing your due diligence and hiring experienced professionals is key.

The process usually entails application of diluted acid to the affected windows, followed by thorough scrubbing using mops and non-scratching scrubbing pads. The glass, gaskets, window components and surrounding areas are then thoroughly rinsed using a low-pressure hose. For a perfect finish, we will sometimes recommend to follow the acid wash with a regular squeegee clean, as the process can leave drips and water spots behind. Work can be performed from ropes, swing stage, or a boom lift.

Is timing important?

Most people associate window cleaning with sunny summer weather. However, when it comes to chemical clean or acid wash, cooler cloudy or rainy weather is best. Here is why:

  1. The chemical absolutely cannot dry on the glass: If it does, it may etch it and permanently damage the windows. This makes working in the sun near impossible and the whole process much more difficult.
  2. Worker safety is paramount: That’s why when working with dangerous chemicals, a full rubber suit and gloves are required which become extremely uncomfortable to wear in the summer heat.
  3. Cost Savings: There may be cost savings in having this done in the off season. Window cleaning companies may offer better rates once the peak summer season is over. Also, performing this work in the rainy season may allow you to eliminate the final step of detailed squeegee clean, hence eliminating that extra cost altogether. 

In Summary 

Now that you have all the information on hand, you are ready to book your chemical clean. Here is a quick summary of what you will need to make your project a success:

  • Understand the issue – Is this an existing building with staining that happened over time, or is this a new project in need of a post-construction clean? If dealing with more than just staining, a full post-construction clean might be needed, and an acid wash may not be sufficient.
  • Vet your service provider – Do not be afraid to ask questions! Ask about the process. Ask for a Safe Work Procedure document specific to chemical clean. Ask about the product used and the MSDS sheet. Make sure to get at least two references that back the legitimacy of your provider, and ensure that the references are specific to acid wash.
  • Discuss Timing – Make sure your clients understand that optimal timing for this work is different from regular window cleaning. This will make booking the service easier and may also save your clients money.

Of course, if you have any questions around acid wash or post-construction cleaning, we would be happy to answer them. Our team has over a decade of experience in post-construction work and has developed clear safe work procedures around acid cleaning.

 

Meet Ryan Macdonald & Find out where he’s gone since Black Tie

By Krishna Nault

In today’s blog feature, we interview Ryan Macdonald, a Wind Turbine Technician & IRATA 2 Rope Access Technician, currently working at Vestas.  Ryan had previously worked with us as a window cleaner on the Black Tie Construction team and I had a chance to sit down with him and interview him about his experience with us. 

 

 

Can you share with us some background about yourself?  Where are you from and what are your passions? 

Well, I’m 30 years old and I grew up in Revelstoke, BC. Big into mountaineering and outdoor adventures, as well as a fan of history and political activism. Bit of a renaissance man, haha.

Can you describe for us what your current job is?

I currently work as a resource technician with Vestas Americas, and I travel across North America building, servicing, repairing and sometimes decommissioning wind turbines. It’s a 100% on-the-road position, so my fixed address is a storage locker now.

That’s such an interesting job, what inspired to pursue that?

I spent seven years in the tech startup industry, and one day as I was very tired of that role I saw a really cool photo of someone who was repairing a turbine blade on ropes in Morocco.  I thought that I wanted to do that and gave myself 5 years to do it. Haven’t quite made it to Morocco yet!

What is it that you love doing about this job?  

This has been a dream job of mine, and one of my favorite things about it is that it brings me to travel to places that I wouldn’t have otherwise. So far this job has taken me to Oregon, Texas, Iowa, and across Canada three times by car.  I spend anywhere from 4 days to several months in each location depending on the project. 

One of my passions is rock climbing, and a big percentage of my days are spent hanging from ropes professionally now. Also, I am compensated well for the work that I do. 

Can you describe for us your experience working with Black Tie? 

Working at Black tie for over three years was a formative experience for me.  I learned a lot of skills from David (Managing partner of Black Tie Construction services) such as accountability, attention to detail, and team management skills.  In my years of work experience, working at Black Tie was the most valuable in terms of hard transferable skills learned – hands down. I’ve worked for other window cleaning companies before and sometimes worked with people who weren’t very inspiring or motivated which was rarely the case here.

I love how Black Tie creates the best possible work experience for window cleaning.  I was never made to feel like I was just a number.  David really makes you feel like you are part of the family and I loved the monthly barbecues. He makes the best Guacamole!

Shout out to Ravi, too, he was there as I went over my first drop practically holding my hand while I was scared. One of the hardest workers and nicest guys I’ve ever met.

What kind of advice could you give for someone working at Black Tie who is aspiring to grow into working in other industries like yourself?

In terms of career development, I think working in construction is more valuable.  Working in property services is a bit more relaxed and flexible, you don’t have to wear PVC every day.  I found I learned valuable time management skills there.  In the construction side though, you are constantly interacting with construction crews, liasoning directly with the site supervisors on timelines, you have to be really conscientious about where you drop your ropes, and you have a lot more tasks that you have to be managing.  When I first started doing wind turbine installations, in 2018/2019, I feel like I wouldn’t have been nearly as successful doing that job if I hadn’t already had experience working with the construction team at Black Tie.  I would say that working with David set me up for my future success.

Can you share a fun fact about you? 

I’ve been a hobby photographer for about a decade now, my camera is my constant companion on the road!


Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Window cleaning isn’t the most glamorous job, and sometimes it’s a struggle due to weather or the stress of the contract, but out of all the jobs I’ve had it definitely prepared me the most for a career with heavy responsibilities and high pressure. And the first time you notice some kid forcing his parents to stop walking so he can watch in amazement as you hang off a building, or try to hand you a cold pop out a window as you abseil past – that’s a feeling you’ll never forget. 😉

Thanks Ryan for taking  the time to share your insight and knowledge with us.  It was great talking to you and we at Black Tie wish you success in the world of wind turbines.