The Pirellone building in Milano, Italy, was once able to boast that it was the town’s tallest building – and practically its only skyscraper – soaring 127 meters high over “tiny” Velasca Tower crushed by the weight of history and tradition.
Together with the “Madunina” statue of the Madonna at the top of the Duomo, these three vertiginous marvels in Milan were renowned throughout the world and the pride and joy of every Milanese, whether native to the city or not.
The king’s destiny is to be usurped, however, and that’s what happened to the Pirellone building. In recent years, new skyscrapers with increasingly futuristic lines designed by the world’s most famous Italian and international archistars began sprouting up all around Milano like mushrooms, and the silhouette of the Lombard capital changed quickly, especially in certain neighborhoods, like Porta Nuova, Isola, and City Life, where they kept climbing higher and higher, reaching the 231 meters (with a trick) vaunted by Unicredit Tower, the 207 meters of the Izoaki Tower (which also tops 230 m with the help of its antenna) and so on, to the new Lombardy Region headquarters.
We must obviously neither forget the “Bosco Verticale”, that twin-tower residential complex designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri with its shrubbery and tall trees planted on its balconies and terraces along all four of the parallelepiped’s faces in accordance with a genial metropolitan reforestation plan. This authentic architectural jewel was awarded the title of «the world’s most handsome and innovative skyscraper» by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2015.
Like Milano, other Italian cities wanted to embellish their skyline with buildings enriched with extremely high profile, both literally and in terms of architectural value, and the names of Calatrava, Massimiliano Fuksas, and Zaha Hadid, not to mention others, began signing futuristic construction plans of breathtaking beauty.
But everyone knows that creativity does not always go hand in hand with practicality, and the complexity of the structures, the technical features of the materials, their great dynamics, and the intricate interlacing of geometrical lines that increase the iconic value of the various creations enormously can also impose a limit on the preservation of this value over the years. This is because time, aided by climatic factors, atmospheric pollution (a gift of modernity) or accidental inconveniences, begins its actions of deterioration and degradation immediately. Dirt accumulates on the facades, the immense glassed surfaces cloud over, and the materials, for as technological as they may be, suffer unexpected side-effects that undermine their integrity: and cleaning and maintenance operations that were not originally foreseen during the design phase become extremely difficult.
And up until a few years ago, these operations played no part in the preparatory studies for the various buildings. The buildings still had to be cleaned, anyway. But how? Not often, in light of the costs, the complexity, and the scarcity of trained personnel. In the Anglo-Saxon world, and especially in the United States, where cleaning skyscraper windows had already been a business for decades - the boldest operators accustomed to working at great heights were the “window cleaners” in precarious balance on suspended platforms and buckets swaying in the wind. Organized in powerful associations and armed with wiper, suaper, and pail of water, they were the only ones capable of working at such heights. Exposed to unspeakable risks, they became myths and modern heroes.
But today’s giants, the modern titans daring the heights, need much more. These buildings need guardian angels capable of restituting their force and beauty, and capable of increasing – if possible – their value in time, in order to prolong, if not the illusion of eternity, at least their lives in all the splendor in which they were conceived, enabling everyone to enjoy the fruit, and to continue doing so at the lowest risk possible.
A winning hunch
This was the hunch that Gianpaolo Apollonio, an enterprising businessman of Friulian origin, had over twenty years ago while visiting Canada: he was amazed by the sight of the agile acrobats sliding up and down dizzying skyscraper glass walls slung “merely” from a cable but always working in conditions of complete safety.
It was like a thunderbolt out of the blue. He came back to Italy and decided this was the path to follow: he set up a cleaning and maintenance business specialized in operations at high elevation with professionals working suspended from a cable instead of using traditional methods.
This was the birth of Fly Service. No sooner said than done? Not quite, obviously, and not just because there was nothing else like it in the entire nation, but because Apollonio wanted to start things in the right way, well aware that he was about to introduce something absolutely revolutionary and precisely for this reason it would have to be completely irreproachable from every point of view, first and foremost of all in terms of the safety of the operators.
The problem was not merely choosing the most appropriate equipment, which has always been, ever since the start, the most technologically advanced: the same (cables, harnesses, and karabiners, etc.) used by the most expert rock climbers. The problem was to understand the regulatory framework for the activity.
“We contacted the USL National Health Unit,” Gianpaolo Apollonio explains, “to learn which laws we would be required to respect in order to be able to guarantee that we were conducting our operational procedures in compliance with safety regulations, but the only legislative framework for suspended work dated back to 1956, and practically speaking, posed no limits. A case like ours had never arisen before”.
Law No. 235/2003, which specifically addresses the problem of people working above ground suspended from cables, was passed upon the more or less discreet but constant insistence of Fly Service. The text of the law was subsequently incorporated in the Consolidated Safety Act (Legislative Decree 81/2008).
Fly Service very much wanted the sector to be regulated and above all, wanted work suspended on cables to be carefully described and defined in order for everyone to know that it involved working above ground in absolutely the safest way possible that guarantees the lowest quantity of accidents involving falls.
“We commissioned an extremely accurate risk analysis from an external agency,” Apollonio confirms “which employed standardized European procedures and made a comparison of statistical data regarding the positioning at heights of operators to demonstrate that positioning by cable is the best technical approach in terms of reducing risks and accidents”. The law clearly states that the employer must adopt the safest procedure in the technique’s state-of-the-art at that precise moment. And the best procedure happens to suspension from cables, as was also demonstrated in a study conducted by Health and Safety Executive, which performed an accurate assessment of the risks to which the operators working above ground are exposed. Analyzing the technical, environmental, cultural, and training causes of numerous accidents, they came to the conclusion that positioning above ground with a cable is the method that guarantees the highest safety possible, and more so than scaffolding, buckets, or platforms, etc. What’s more, whenever accidents do occur, the injured workers can be recovered more quickly, while remaining understood that this system guarantees a reduction in the number of accidents.
As a result, the flying Fly Service men move with the greatest of ease on the steepest and most dizzying surfaces, such as the Piedmont Region skyscraper or the one-hundred thousand square meters of glassed surfaces of the Law Court in Florence.
Another winning hunch
Confining such a spectacular activity to the sphere of cleaning (as extremely important as it is, we would like to emphasize) may appear reductive for someone like Gianpaolo Apollonio, who likes to think and plan on large scale with the true pioneer’s spirit.
Intervening on existing structures was well enough at first, given that the Italian market was not yet ready to duly welcome a innovation of this kind, a professional service of the highest level and unquestionable efficacy, for buildings that were not, however, “naturally” predisposed to certain loads. Contributing to the design of the buildings and studying together with the architects the best solutions to permit truly ad hoc interventions subsequently would be something entirely different. This was Gianpaolo Apollonio’s second winning hunch, and FlyService Engineering was founded in 2003 as an engineering company that studies the anchoring points most appropriate for highly complex skyscrapers, develops the large and small instruments that are safer and blend in better with the overall architectural design in order to offer anyone interested the possibility to perform this time of maintenance.
Unique in its kind in the entire world, with the strength of a highly-competent team of engineers, technicians, and information systems experts located in two branches in Milano and Roma, FlyService Engineering is in contact with the world’s most renowned architecture studios, from Zaha Hadid to Norman Foster, from Frank Gehry to Massimiliano Fuksas and others, and develops systems that are as unique as the buildings to which they are applied.
“We work with a system of software, BIM, which after design,” Gianpaolo Apollonio explains, “permits the monitoring of the risk percentage and the simulation of the building’s complete life cycle. This lets us make the risk assessments in advance and take the necessary corrective measures right away”.
All this work takes form in the drafting of a maintenance manual in which all the procedures are described step by step, from the way to access the point in question to how to perform the cleaning, and how to intervene to change a window pane or restore a damaged surface when necessary. For many interventions, a solution that guarantees the desired result must be found upstream in the process. The manual is provided in both paper and electronic format to the people who must effectively perform the maintenance.
“We geo-locate the operators and guarantee the client that the work process is correct and that the procedures are respected even when we are not the ones intervening in the material sense. All this permits a reduction in cost and guaranteed results with the fullest respect for the value of the work of art, the environment, and the safety of the workers”. Respecting the planet also means knowing how to fly.
Fly servıce’in uçan adamları
Onlar, dünyanın en değerli binalarını koruyorlar. Üstelik bunu uzun vadede bütünlüğünü ve güzelliğini garanti ederek yapıyorlar
Anglo-Sakson dünyasında, özellikle ABD’de gökdelenler yıllardır var olduğu için, en cesur operatörler ‘windows cleaners’ rüzgarda sallanan dengesiz gondollar üzerinde çalışan yüksekliğe alışık cam temizleyicileridir. Ancak modern devlere, gökyüzüne meydan okuyan günümüz titanlarına başka bir şey gerekiyordu. Onlara güç ve güzelliklerini geri kazandıracak ve bu işi en az riskle yapmalarını sağlayacak koruyucu melekler lazımdı.
Mutlu bir sezgi
Herşey, Friuli bölgesinden gelen girişimci Gianpaolo Apollonio’nun yirmi yıl öncesine dayanan bir sezgisiyle başladı. Kanada’ya yaptığı bir ziyaret sırasında, çevik akrobatların sadece halata asılı bir biçimde, gökdelenin baş döndüren vitray duvarları boyunca yaptıkları bir gösteriden etkilenmişti. Tıpkı ilk görüşte aşk gibi, İtalya’ya döndü ve ilerlemek için doğru yol olduğuna inandığı şu kararı verdi: yüksek binaların temizlik ve bakımını sağlayacak bir iş kurmak ve bunu geleneksel yöntemlerle değil halata asılı olarak yapmak.
Böylece Fly Service hayata geçti. Bu kadar basit mi? Tabii ki değil. İşin zor kısmı yalnızca ülkemizde bu işi yapan kimsenin olmaması değil aynı zamanda Apollonio’nun bu işe emin adımlarla başlamak istemesiydi. Piyasayı yenilikçi bir ürünle tanıştırmak üzere olduğunun farkındaydı ve işte tam da bu yüzden en başta çalışanların güvenliği olmak üzere her açıdan güçlü ve emin olması gerekiyordu.
İş sadece en uygun ekipmanı seçmekle bitmiyordu ki en başından itibaren hep en ileri teknolojiye sahip olanlar seçildi. Halatlar, emniyet kemerleri, karabinalar vb. en uzman tırmanışçıların kullandıklarıyla aynıydı.
Önemli olan bu aktivitenin hukuki açıdan uygulanabilir olup olmadığını anlamaktı.
Yasalar açıkça işverenin belirlediği prosedürün son teknoloji ürünü ve mümkün olan en güvenli yöntem olması gerektiğini söylüyor. Halata asılı olarak yapılan aslında en doğru yöntem.
Gianpaolo Apollonio’nun ikinci güzel sezgisi ise FlyService Engineering. Karmaşık gökdelenler için en uygun bağlantı noktalarını çalışan ve bu gökdelenlere gerektiğinde her türlü bakımın yapılmasına imkan tanıyan tasarım şirketi.