Not long ago this author hung out with professional glaziers fixing windows in skyscrapers forty floors above the sidewalks of Toronto.
One of this Province’s premier glass distribution companies, Thermo-Bilt Windows and Doors replacement windows service will tackle just about any glass window repair and replacement job below one hundred feet in the air, which seems quite high, but this is the top working height of most articulating lift trucks. If the window that needs replacing lies higher than that, then Toronto’s top glaziers, skilled glass repair technicians are called to the site.
Last week I went up, way up with these folks on a service call and would soon find myself wearing the flimsy little red harness that Chris can be seen seen holding in his hands above. The crew was very friendly and seemed eager to share with me a glimpse into their world. The gentleman in the foreground is making a point. The caulking gun is the primary tool of the glaziers (that morning) and the worker below was demonstrating his quick draw technique!
Minutes after I stepped into the swing stage that was parked on the roof of a downtown skyscraper I found myself on the outside looking in, clinging to the smooth exterior of a LEED Certified building in the Financial District at the heart of the city.
Window glaziers in Toronto are among the hardest working daily maintenance personnel in town. They do harder tasks than the folks who labour underground and they have the risk of falling to their deaths with one wrong step plaguing their thoughts all day long.
A recent article about Chris Replacing Windows in the Sky in the Toronto Guardian lists the routine maintenance tasks he performs while at work shuttling about each side of the tower. The informative text also details his tools and techniques. The piece elaborates on how the west side of every building in town receives far more attention than other sides. The post explains why the west side of every building is the most heavily maintained glass plane in any tower regardless of its physical location in the city, due to Canada’s weather patterns and the problems caused by the hot setting sun.
Chris himself is a born teacher and loves to talk about his many unique tools and technology of his trade.
As we were descending in the swing stage towards the problem window he explained to me how the glass exterior of most modern office towers is composed of multiple panes of glass stuck together with Polyvinyl butyral. The panes range of thickness from 3 to 10 mm 1/8″ to 3/8″ inches and can be made to sandwich an air pocket from which our oxygen nitrogen atmosphere can be removed and replaced with Argon. The resulting glass unit (or window) is stronger, and more insulated and when laminated reasonably shatterproof. In most bank towers the first thirty floors are also blast proof.
Then Chris told me something I didn’t realize before; skyscraper glass window units are perishable!
The noble Argon gas inside these windows constantly seeks escape from its glass prison, and over time perhaps in fifteen or twenty years at the longest, the gas inside will eventually leak out. When that happens the glaziers will say the window has failed. And so Chris made me realize that each unit on every single glass tower in Toronto will inevitably ‘fail’ and then this well paid glazier said with a smile, “There are over 3700 windows in this building alone.”
On that crisp March morning, Chris’s mission was to caulk a window near the top of the structure and so our descent from the roof didn’t take very long
The caulking job offered me plenty of opportunities to get great shots of a high window glazier doing routine maintenance work.
The Toronto Guardian article dated 23 Feb 2017 ends with a blurb about how even the healthiest minds can suffer repeated mental over-stimulation (by suppressing fear) and form a Somatoform Disorder. This happens when the human brain is constantly telling the body that everything is okay, suppressing an instinctual vertigo. The symptoms of this mental condition are very physical however as the illness presents itself in so many mobility-crippling manifestations. Taking all this into account Chris believes he has a responsibility to his mind and body to ‘party -hard’ on the weekends to relive stress. So far its working. This young professional is happy and truly loves his life. At this time he cannot imagine anything that would keep him from his cool job replacing windows in the sky.