Meet the adrenaline junkies who dangle from towers to keep Toronto's skyline shining
The job of keeping Toronto's glitzy glass towers clean is not for the faint of heart, and it takes a true adrenaline aficionado to pursue dangling off skyscrapers rather than the traditional nine-to-five grind.
Hanging tens or even hundreds of metres above the street on a harness may not be for everyone, but those willing to strap in every day get treated to some pretty breathtaking views of the city below.
There's a growing market for high-rise window cleaners in the GTA as the region experiences its most dramatic vertical growth spurt to date.
Several newer companies are addressing this boom in demand. One of them is setting itself apart by leveraging its unbelievable access to on-the-job views to create instant-hit social media content.
The company's first post was just 16 weeks ago, but regular uploads from their outstanding vantage points are starting to gain traction.
Less new to the Insta game is ecobc's Luis Estrada, who also posts Instagram stories of his jaw-dropping views. Luis is not what you'd expect from a worker in this type of role, his youthful vibe and stylish aesthetic eschewing the typical image of a rough-around-the-edges window washer.
The company's president, Christian Coldea, tells blogTO that ecobc is breaking the gruff stereotypes of the industry, saying, "a lot of the people in my company like Luis are younger, the type of people who live in condos, not just clean [the outside of] them."
blogTO caught up with Luis Estrada and Christian Coldea on their latest job, cleaning the exteriors of a two-tower condo complex on Fort York Boulevard.
After having just wrapped up cleaning the complex's taller tower, ecobc invited us to the top of its 16-storey tower at 209 Fort York Boulevard to share their latest unique perspective of the city.
Coldea has been running the company for about two years, but Estrada only got involved three months ago. It's abundantly clear that he has quickly learned the figurative and literal ropes.
"I didn't think I had a fear of heights going in, but once you get up there and look down, it's a different feeling," Estrada tells blogTO. "The first building I did was only ten floors, and after getting over that first time, I felt pretty good."
He's seen a lot in a short time in the business, from sweeping city views and extreme weather to vignettes of Toronto condominium life as seen through soapy windows.
"One of the funniest experiences was when I was cleaning windows of a unit having a party," Estrada recalls. "It was crazy. They were trying to offer me beer through a window that was too small for it to fit. They asked what type of music they should play for me while I worked."
"Another funny thing you see is the different reactions from cats versus dogs. The dogs get all excited and make noise. They try to get your attention. Cats just don’t seem to care," Estrada says through laughter.
Weather can be a make-or-break factor in a team's ability to clean a building exterior, but cold or rain isn't the type of inclement weather that bothers Estrada.
"Rain doesn’t bother me too much or affect our technique. What is a problem is the wind. It's even worse with taller buildings like when we were almost 40 storeys high," Luis says, gesturing to the complex's taller tower next door.
"When the ropes get a bit of slack [during high wind], it can get really scary."
Estrada notes that weather suddenly turning can be especially dangerous as safety arresting gear limits the rate of descent: "If we start to go down the ropes too fast, it's going to lock," meaning that recognizing changing weather early on is vital to ensure enough time for a safe descent.
All of the stellar vistas and unique experiences come with inherent risk, something Estrada never expects to take for granted.
"Always check your safety gear, and never get too comfortable on the job," he says.
"When I was new, I wanted to hear everything. I didn't wear earphones or anything. Now that I'm comfortable, I listen to podcasts, music, anything really. But when I'm setting up [my gear], I don't listen to anything, talk to anyone, because what if I make a mistake?"
With a millennial at the helm in Coldea, ecobc is taking a forward-thinking stance on issues like environmentalism, evident in its branding.
"We are super environmentally-conscious," Coldea says, adding that he has a master's degree in environmental studies and that the company "donates portions of our revenue to a Canadian environmental NGO."
As for soap, Coldea says, "we only use Dawn," the dish soap known for its ad campaign where the product was used by environmentalists to clean spilled oil from affected animals.
According to Emporis, Toronto is home to a mind-boggling 2,500+ buildings rising ten or more storeys. That’s a lot of windows to clean and a lot of views to be shared.
Hopefully, more window cleaning companies can develop an active Instagram presence, with limitless potential for new city views to be shared.
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