Treated appropriately with respect by its large number of visitors, the complex and demanding National Museum of Australia is progressing in implementing green cleaning practices. Michael Parkinson reports Attracting about 910,000 visitors a year, the National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra is one of the country’s most popular venues. The Museum’s landmark position on […]
Treated appropriately with respect by its large number of visitors, the complex and demanding National Museum of Australia is progressing in implementing green cleaning practices. Michael Parkinson reports
Attracting about 910,000 visitors a year, the National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra is one of the country’s most popular venues. The Museum’s landmark position on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin is an appropriate backdrop for the building’s striking design that is characterised by vivid colours, shapes, angles and textures.
The NMA’s main building covers 24,000 square metres. Other buildings include the Annexe Building of 1,300 square metres and the Medical Superintendent’s Building of 200 square metres. Limestone House is another in the group, as well as off-site storage and conservation facilities. A further 13,000 square metres of space is spread across several buildings in Mitchell, plus a 600 square metres storage building at Fyshwick.
All the NMA’s facilities are managed by a department of 10 people, headed by John Ryan. Peter Harkness, NMA’s facilities and projects officer, manages the cleaning contract as well as the telecommunications, contract, property leasing, the motor vehicle fleet and some building fit out work. He is also responsible for pest control, grounds maintenance and staff relocations.
Marko Ilakovac is the site manager for Rolfe Property Services, which has held the current cleaning contract for some five years. Rolfe’s tender was originally for a three year assignment, but has had two one-year extensions. A new tender has been be let and the successful tenderer is expected to be announced in January 2011.
Catering at the NMA is provided under a contract with the Hyatt hotel, which arranges its own kitchen cleaning.
“Despite the high volume of visitors, we don’t have many of the problems often associated with large public venues. We receive an average of 25,000 visitors, which includes about 25 busloads every day, many of which are school groups. We also provide cleaning for high school, university and other functions that are held in dedicated function rooms or the main hall,” said Peter Harkness.
“People are quite respectful of the museum environment, however, with the main challenge being to have the museum ready each morning. One crew of 10 cleaners works intensively from 6.00 until 9.00am daily to clean all the office and exhibition areas and additional cleaners are needed when a special event is being held that dramatically increases visitor numbers.”
Rubber flooring most challenging
The most challenging part of the NMA cleaning team’s job is the large variety of surfaces to be cleaned. “We have carpet, Pirelli rubber, marble floors in the main hall and wooden decks outside. Each of these surfaces has their particular maintenance requirements,” Harkness explained.
“The Pirelli flooring is very difficult to maintain, however our flooring still looks like new, even though it’s been down for 10 years. We had the representatives from Pirelli on site to advise on the best maintenance procedures. The key is understanding how to strip this surface properly, which has to be done once every six months.
“If a whole section of floor is not stripped properly you get a build-up of polish that leaves marks, making the floor look dull. For re-polishing, one layer of polish needs to be applied and left one day to harden before a second coat can be applied.
“We have a similar situation in the main hall, where we have sought specialist maintenance advice for the marble floor. This involves a daily scrub and a deep clean every three months.
“Timber decks are mopped daily to remove rubbish and bird droppings. We then scrub the decks once or twice a year. The timber is also re-sealed every one to two years as well as re-oiled every two years.”
The Museum’s large windows and glass doors, walls and glass screening need to be cleaned daily. The large glass roof domes need cleaning every two months and sometimes more often if there is a dust storm.
“We don’t get involved in cleaning the museum exhibits. Conservation staff handles this task, unless we are asked to assist, and then it is only in the presence of a member of the conservation staff,” Harkness noted.
“The cleaners have a Museum induction process, only cleaners with appropriate training and experience are assigned to exhibition areas. Most of the cleaners have worked here for a long time, so there is generally no problem with them being assigned to any of our buildings as needed,” he added.
Like other iconic sites, the NMA is very conscious of environmental issues.
“Green cleaning techniques are desirable wherever practical, so this management aspect is incorporated in the latest tender documents. We have introduced semi-waterless urinals in the Museum building to reduce our water consumption. We’re also about to commence trialling the Airwave hand dryers and will monitor how this reduces paper towel consumption.
“When the new tender was let, we requested green cleaning, water conservation and cleaning automation suggestions by the incoming successful tenderer,” emphasised Harkness.