Designers must take cleanability into account with new builds

  • 10 Mar 2014

Cleaning contractors across the globe regularly face the arduous task of trying to work cleaning regimes around old buildings. Badly selected floor surfaces and interior design that placed aesthetics over practicality are just the start of a cleaning operative’s woes. Add a lack of janitorial spaces and storage areas, electrical sockets and plumbing to that list and the task of cleaning gets that little bit harder and more cumbersome. Although such issues can be tricky to overcome, experienced companies are well accustomed to these concerns and have learnt to work around them. However, when it comes to new builds, you would have thought a different, much more straightforward story would unfold altogether.

Hard-surface and more durable flooring such as poured concrete, terrazzo, stone and rubber are much easier to clean than carpets

In an ideal world, the issues surrounding the maintenance of a building should be solved well before the first brick is laid, or steel frame bolted. By designing a cleaning regime into the framework of a building, you have the ability to save both money and time. The whole notion of the contractor being required to work out the best way to clean a building after it’s been built should be flipped on its head. Buildings themselves should now work alongside the cleaning process, not against it.
Designing cleanability not only helps to save money and time spent on cleaning, it also has the capacity to help create healthier environments and provides the means to supply more sustainable and greener cleaning techniques. This, in turn, will only aid the lifespan of a building as its maintenance needs are met from the very moment the idea is born.

The selection of materials is hugely important when it comes to cleaning, and the design of flooring is among the most significant. Hard-surface and more durable flooring such as poured concrete, terrazzo, stone and rubber are much easier
to clean than carpets. It is also important to consider floorings that don’t have too many maintenance requirements, such as stripping and re-waxing, which can be costly and time consuming.
Selecting robust paints and wall coverings should also be another major consideration. However, for architects there is always going to be some conflict between aesthetically pleasing design and practical solutions.
On one occasion, Nviro was tasked with cleaning a natural light display at the top of a very high ceiling. The architect had used a large amount of copper which was covered by Perspex; however, as part of it was exposed to the elements, verdigris and lichen had built up over the surface. This was incredibly difficult to access and clean, and acts as a prime example of something that looks fantastic, but suffers from its own design flaws over time.
In recent years, there has been a move towards self-cleaning, from ovens to clothing and, more importantly, glass. Although, with the future of self-cleaning floors, walls, bathrooms and kitchens a long way off, it is important to stay focused on ways to simplify the cleaning process, as eliminating it altogether is a fanciful prospect.

Designing cleanability helps to save money and time spent on cleaning, whilst providing the means to supply more sustainable and greener cleaning techniques

Awareness of the cleaning regime
Elements of building design, such as well-placed electrical sockets; designated plumbing for cleaning operatives; janitorial rooms for storage and controlled areas for the safe mixing of chemicals, all need to be considered if the cleaning regime is going to be undertaken to a high standard.
However, there are also less obvious factors that need the same careful consideration: Large areas of flooring may require the use of a scrubber dryer, so entrance ways and lifts need to allow for the use of such machinery throughout a building. Storage areas for larger equipment also need to be provided and well placed within the geography of the building’s design.
By being aware of exactly how a space is going to be cleaned, designers can factor in every element to make the work of a cleaning contractor that bit easier. Although this may be time consuming during the initial stages of design, once implemented, this work and effort will have a raft of benefits in the long run. With this in mind, cleaning should no longer be an afterthought, it should be considered as a process that’s built into the fabric of a building from the very beginning.

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