A new brilliance for concert hall

9th of November 2017
A new brilliance for concert hall

German correspondent Alexandra Lachner reports from Hamburg’s famous new concert hall.

One of the now most famous concert halls in Germany opened its doors at the beginning of the year: the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall in Hamburg. The new glass building reaches 110 metres into the sky. There are some 1,000 glass elements making up around 17,500 square metres of glass façade which have already had cleaned twice since the building opened.

Window and façade cleaning of prestigious buildings always makes the most exacting demands: workplace safety must be guaranteed at all times; the architect wants the cleaning to be undertaken as inconspicuously as possible; and the building operators are focused on the quality of the finished work. It is the continual job of Martin Semmel, managing director of rope-based maintenance, construction and cleaning specialists 3KER RAS GROUP.

“In these cases we would normally go through the inside of the building up to the roof and carry out the work while abseiling down. With the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall the whole thing has to be done differently for safety reasons. The industrial climbers begin on the ground in front of the building, hook themselves up, are winched upwards and then transfer to their working seat and clean on the way down.”

Since the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall is only accessible on one side by water, a 37-metre long, seven metres deep floating pontoon was installed as a working base for the façade climbers. And Semmel, in cooperation with his colleagues in ABO Glasreinigung and the main contractor SPIE, had to be even more inventive. In order to achieve the required standard of cleaning, the team does not use normal water.  A reverse osmosis water plant is placed on the roof which demineralises the water and distributes it through four supply hoses and then eight working hoses to the climbers.

“The advantage is that our workers have the hose attached to a telescopic rod which has a brush on the end. The demineralised water removes the dirt with, if necessary, the help of the brush. Removal by stripping – which would not be possible because of the partly convex panels – is not necessary, since there are no limescale marks left behind,” says Semmel.

This highly effective procedure is also necessary owing to the proximity of the port of Hamburg since, during the first cleaning of the Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall only six months after it opened, a high degree of contamination was recorded from the rust and oil particles in the air.

In the normal course of work, protective tunnels or scaffolding are used to ensure the necessary safety of passers-by and visitors. Work stops when someone passes by. “With the enormous public traffic around the Elbe Concert Hall this would not have been feasible – we would never have been able to complete the work”, says Semmel. Mobile protective tunnels, eight metres wide, four metres high and 37 metres long, were consequently employed which guaranteed the required safety clearances.

Martin Semmel and his team completed the mammoth project on time: with 11 workers on site, eight of whom were on the façade, the job was completed in 13 days, with one day each for preparation and clearing up.


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