Thursday, 5 July 2012

When I'm cleaning windows

You couldn't help but be impressed by the design and engineering accomplishment of London's latest landmark, the Shard.  It is western Europe's tallest building, a mere 87 floors at a cost £1.5bn.

Without doubt its top floor public viewing gallery will become a must visit location.  That assumes however that the windows are kept sufficiently clean for you to enjoy the view.

I was reminded of the Scottish Parliament shock when the penny dropped that cleaning the windows of their new building would cost significantly more due to the awkward shape, intricate design, irregularly shaped bomb-proofed widows and sweeping skylights. One of my favourite case studies on whole life costs.

The award of the Shard's window cleaning contract has yet to be announced but it is interesting to speculate on the procurement approach.

  • How many potential providers are in the market?
  • What will the buyer and suppliers risk assessments would look like? 
  • Will inputs (such as frequency of cleaning) be the basis of the specification or outcomes (such as 'no visible bird poo')? 
  • What sort of previous experience would be appropriate?
  • What type of insurance cover would be required?
  • Will respecting tenants and hotel residents privacy be a factor? 
  • Will providers need a head for heights?
  • What would be an appropriate mix of cost/quality?
  • Will the award be transparent (sorry just couldn't resist)
  • ...     

Of course this is a private sector venture, freed from the constraints of public procurement - let's look forward to what we can learn from this procurement.

Background reading:
Hipwell, D. (2012) 'Only one Shard ... but so many windows'. The Times, 5 July, p.3. 
Nutt, K. (2006) 'Row over Holyrood's £28,000 window cleaning bill', The Sunday Times, 9 April.

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