When are monorail systems a suitable solution?

All buildings need regular maintenance to prolong their lifespan and prevent serious damage. In order to keep the appearance of a building top-notch, facades require routine washing. Accessing a facade must take place safely, with reliable equipment. Not only does this ensure that workers are safe, it also ensures that the building does not get damaged. One way to provide access to a facade is a monorail system. This system is especially suited for medium-rise buildings with complicated designs and hard-to-reach facades.

What is a monorail system?

As the name implies, a monorail is a single rail track. Monorail systems on the other hand, are used for building maintenance and consist out of a rail track, a set of trolleys and a gondola.

Monorail systems are suitable for both outdoor and indoor use, for example, they can be mounted on the face of the facade or inside an atrium.

The monorail track can be fixed to a wall or ceiling, or even etched into the building’s structure. The track can be configured horizontally, vertically or on an incline, which allows the system to cover complex routes. Both the shape and the color can be matched to the structure, integrating the system into the structure.

One advantage of a monorail system is that it can be designed to blend in with a building’s architecture., and the cradle can be removed when not in use. Thus limiting the effect on the aesthetics of a building.

So, what are the other advantages of a monorail system?

FacadeXS Monorail solution

Advantages of a monorail system

Monorail systems have a couple of advantages over other methods of facade access. A permanently installed monorail system is far more efficient than, for example, a mobile elevated work platform or a suspended scaffold. A monorail system with a self-hoisting gondola will provide workers with access to the entire facade along the rail trajectory without having to move the entire system.

Monorails can also be used indoors, for example for access to the glass inside of a facade or for access to skylights. This negates the need for bulky access solutions, such as scaffolding. Additionally the gondola can be removed from the rails and stored, so that the rail track is the only visible part of the system.

Compared to a Building Maintenance Unit (BMU) a monorail system is much less bulky. The system does not take up any space on the roof, thus leaving more room for rooftop terraces, ventilation systems etc. The rail track of a monorail can follow the contours of a facade meticulously, providing access to the entire exterior of a building. A BMU roof car is often far more limited in its movements due to elevator shafts, maintenance rooms or other equipment or structures on the roof that block the machine from reaching the facade. This means that a roof car with a larger range is needed to reach all parts of a facade, but these tend to put a higher load on the structure.

A monorail system on the other hand weighs less than a roof car and thus puts less strain on a structure.

Monorail applications - indoor and outdoor

Drawbacks of a monorail system

A monorail system is, however, no solution for all facade maintenance jobs. There are buildings that are too tall for a monorail cradle to reach. This has to do with the amount of wire ropes and power cables needed to span the vertical length of the building. As the hoist units of a monorail system are in the cradle, the amount of cable will increase the weight. Thus limiting the maximum reach of a monorail system to approximately 100 meters (328 ft).

Another disadvantage of a monorail system is the fixed distance from the facade. When a building has protruding or retracting elements, or a zigzagging facade with shifts between floor levels below the point where the monorail track could be installed, than the cradle cannot reach this area. In these situations a roof car could be more suitable, as it can expand and retract and thus bring the gondola closer to the facade at any level.

Last but not least, careful consideration needs to be made on how workers are going to use a monorail system. They have to be able to get into the cradle safely, so a safe location has to be appointed. When a cradle is detached, when not in use, the workers will have to attach the system again before use. For this a facility, such as a hatch, needs to be placed in the facade or the ceiling. The attaching and detaching needs to happen in a proper manner as to put no one at risk. So workers will need training on safe equipment usage.

Self-hoisting gondola (2-person) with XS127-with rail

Project specific

Whether or not a monorail system can be used on a project depends on a variety of factors, such as the height of the building and the trajectory the monorail should be able to travel in order to reach the entire facade. Want to know more about our monorail solutions? Download the monorail leaflet. Do you have a specific project you want advice for? Contact us directly.