Chairman Israel Berger, FAIA Speaks on NPR's WNYC on Whether Robots Should Replace Humans as Window Washers in Response to Wednesday's One World Trade Center Incident

November 13, 2014

In the early days of skyscraper window cleaning at the turn of the 20th century, workers hung out the window anchored by nothing more than a leather belt. These days there are more safety measures in place, but why take the risk when there are robots that can do the job?

The company Sky Pro has four different types of robot window cleaners that range from 4 to 12 feet long. They look like a giant Roomba. About 100 robots have been sold in 47 countries, including to the Wynn casino in Las Vegas — but the tallest building they're used on is only 30 stories. One World Trade Center climbs to 104 stories.

Also, while window cleaning seems like a dangerous job, nation-wide, only two window cleaners died on the job last year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Far more truck drivers were killed in the line of duty.

There's also the issue of quality.

"The human arm and the human eye are still very competent in doing this work and actually by the way, it's quite efficient," according to Israel Berger the Chairman of Vidaris, an architectural consulting agency. Berger would put his money on John Henry — a human window washer. For him, a robots can't beat a window cleaned by hand with a fresh squeegee. "It may sound silly to describe this in those terms, but it's truly so," he said.

So, it comes down to elbow grease.

Berger said the best window cleaners use an old fashioned mix of Joy dish soap, hot water and a dash of ammonia.

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 by Stephen Nessen

Vidaris Team Member

Written by Vidaris Team Member