Builders clean up their act

UK builders might be struggling with profitability, but apparently they're making great strides in cleanability...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

After a week in which the building trade has been in the news for all the wrong reasons – Taylor Woodrow shares have plunged again after news of further write-offs and office closures, sparking sell-offs across the sector – it’s good to know that our builders are world-class in at least one area: making cleaners’ lives easier.

Yes, it’s that time of year again: the 2008 Building Cleanability awards, as promoted by none other than the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners. This annual gong-fest is intended to ‘promote an increased awareness of the cleaning needs and cleanability issues relevant to all commercial and public buildings’. In other words, the prizes go to buildings that are the easiest to clean.

Like us, you may be wondering what makes one generic office building easier to clean than another. But it turns out that there’s a richness and complexity to cleanability that we’ve never appreciated. The awards identify no fewer than six criteria: is the overall design ‘cleaning friendly’ (whatever that means)? How many different materials have been used and how easy are they to clean? How complex is the window design (?)? Are cradle rails and other equipment provided to facilitate cleaning? Are all parts of the building accessible? Have cleaning safety factors been taken into account? After all, cleaning’s a dangerous game.

So who won this prestigious prize? Top of the pile, showing a clean pair of heels to the opposition, was Shackleton House near London Bridge - home to (amongst others) Dexia Bank, ship brokers Galbraith and engineering firm Hilson Moran. No word on whether staff regularly eat their lunches off the floor, but we wouldn’t be surprised. City Point and 80 The Strand took the other two medal positions, while GlaxoSmithKline’s Brentford office was judged to have ‘the most pleasant working environment’.

But they were just the tip of the cleanable iceberg. Awards chairman Graham Jones said the quantity of entries proved that ‘architects are beginning to appreciate that design features and materials which impact significantly on cost-effective building cleaning need to be considered at the early stages of any building project’. In other words, all this glass and steel may look pretty, but it’s a nightmare for fingerprints.

Jones seemed nigh-on incredulous that the occupiers of these buildings appear to have no interest whatsoever in their awards. But we’re not: after all, cleaners are the great unsung heroes of office life – without their largely unseen efforts, office life would be a lot less bearable. We’re almost tempted to grab a placard and go and protest outside a City investment bank right now.

Also in today's bulletin:

MoD signs off on £3bn warships
Open Goals for 5-a-side operator
How to generate good marketing buzz
Dump your flat-screen, save the world

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