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Last year, the sensitive, fine-grain sandstone on the external façade of the Federal Chancellery had to be cleaned. What was required was a massive washing machine. And a powerful mobile crane whose long telescopic boom could hoist the enormous cleaner to every point on the wall of the building. And you know what? Liebherr has the perfect crane even for this job.
It was by no means the first time that the exterior of the Federal Chancellery in Berlin had been cleaned. The sensitive sandstone needed its first beauty treatment just a few years after the new building had been completed and occupied by the then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. An unexpectedly high level of algae and moss had discoloured parts of the light walls to a black-grey shade. Initial attempts to maintain the gloss of the monumental building proved to be not particularly sustainable. The troublesome invaders attached themselves to the exterior of the government headquarters and proved to be extremely stubborn. “Chancellery in junk look” mocked the tabloid press at the time. Warburg-based Hartinger first travelled to the most secure site in Berlin’s government district with a crane and a type of façade washing machine, which we will talk about later, in 2013. The experts, who normally tackle hoisting, installation and heavy haulage work, persuaded the officials that their concept for removing the uninvited organisms without the use of ugly, expensive scaffolding was perfectly sound. Since then, the company has carried out repeated facelifts on several of the many external walls of the chancellery.
The whole thing is our own invention.
Last summer, a team from Hartinger once again made its way to Berlin. This time it was the turn of the north façade of the nine-storey government building, the central cube of the ensemble. Senior manager Karl Hartinger, whose responsibilities at the family-run company include remaining in constant contact with the seat of German power, sent one of his many cranes in the company’s red livery to the German capital to carry out the cleaning work. It carried with it a cleaning robot weighing several tonnes.
Brushes cover 2000 square metres a day
According to Hartinger, the impressive machine, measuring 4.50 metres in width, is capable of mechanically, yet gently, cleaning up to 2000 square metres of a façade every day using rotating brush rollers and then coating the surface. “The whole thing is our own invention”, says Burkhardt Hartinger. His father continues: “Around fifteen years ago, we were looking for new sectors to get involved in. We always seemed to be taking our cranes to customers with large surface areas of walls which required cleaning. So we designed and developed this cleaning robot and finally we even made it in-house.”
The Liebherr LTM 1250-5.1 was the crane of choice from Hartinger’s fleet for the Chancellery. “We selected it because of its powerful boom configuration and its low support loads”, says Hartinger. The machine could not be any larger or heavier as the set-up area for it was directly above an underground car park. Nevertheless, the Liebherr crane had all the power and lifting capacity required for the work. And this is hardly surprising as it is currently the most powerful mobile crane on five axles in the world. Fitted with a 22 metre hydraulic luffing lattice jib and 63 tonnes of ballast, it could only access the full length of the north façade of the centrally positioned cubic building with the cleaning robot up to the height of the eaves at 36 metres from two locations. Radii of up to 48 metres were required for this purpose. The cleaning machine had to be hoisted over the office block located in front of it.
The job for the Warburg-based crane specialists at the Chancellor’s site took around three weeks. Whilst the mobile crane allowed the cleaning machine to move vertically along the stone façade of the building, the cleaning system inside it was operated using a remote control. However, it could only operate outside normal working hours at the seat of government. Therefore, the brushes in the powerful cleaning machine mainly carried out their scrubbing work at the weekend when the Chancellor and most of the 700 staff were not present at the site.
And we have one final word about the job – the security teams at the Federal Chancellery deserve a great deal of praise. Our photographer, who was only able to document the crane operation from outside the site and had to hold his camera over the massive steel fence using a high ladder, did not remain hidden from the patrols and surveillance cameras at the Federal Chancellery for very long. But all the checks were carried out competently and politely. And we are also delighted to be able to comply with the officials’ wish not to describe the high building in the text as a “washing machine” (its nickname in Berlin as a result of its cubic shape and circular windows). Although the temptation to use the title “Cleaning service at the washing machine” was extremely great.
This article was published in the UpLoad magazine 02 | 2021.