Looking at cleaning from a broader perspective helps when it comes to green certifications as well. At Western Michigan University, the facilities team faced a push for LEED certification at a time when the budget — like university budgets everywhere — kept getting tighter and tighter. So a complete overhaul of the cleaning program was implemented after a successful test run in the college of Health and Human Services.
Previously, janitors were assigned a building and would clean it throughout their shift. Now, the janitors' roles are split into four specialties — floor, general cleaner, restroom and utility — and those filling a particular specialty do it in each building they clean during their shift. The university also invested in backpack vacuums and no-touch restroom cleaning machines to help speed the process.
"Give them the right tools and equipment and it's pretty amazing what we can get accomplished as compared to the way things used to run," says Nate Stonerock, custodial supervisor.
The cleaning shifts were also moved from third shift to a first shift that starts a couple hours before faculty and students arrive on campus. It was a big change that wasn't always warmly accepted, but, Stonerock says, people have adjusted well.
"The Business College is one of my buildings that I can speak of with a lot of pride," says Stonerock, "because I get all kinds of compliments and praise and kudos from the faculty and staff there about how nice their building looks, how friendly my staff is, how convenient it is to have somebody there, knowing that the building's getting taken care of."
The new cleaning program has offered a healthy amount of data and information on processes and procedures, says Peter Strazdas, vice president, facilities administration. One of the biggest questions remaining with the program is just how much documentation is needed for those buildings that will likely not see LEED certification.
"We're not planning — at least today — on certifying all 150 buildings," on campus, Strazdas says, "but we're taking some of the data that we've learned from the three buildings we are submitting LEED-EBOM certification on for right now and using that as a lesson as we move forward on 'how much documentation should we have.' Some of that we might not want to document moving forward; some of it, we're finding out, we do want to continue."
One other reason to consider green cleaning as part of an overall plan is there are sometimes other factors to keep in mind, says Leo Argiris, principal, New York office, Arup.
Arup, which recently received LEED-EBOM certification for its new office location in Manhattan, has a pretty strong culture of sustainability. So one of the features available to employees is storage space for 40 bikes, to encourage employees to bike to work. That requires showers, which Arup included as part of the new space.
"Creating the showers gives you LEED credit, has a good sustainability spin to it in terms of allowing people to bike to work, but then you've got to clean them," he says. "Sometimes you actually create things that you need to then have a program of cleaning."
Argiris is very clear on one thing. There is far less of an environmental impact for Arup to have showers cleaned than it would be to have those employees driving or taking a cab.
"We've done a number of calculations, and generally what we've found in those calculations is that transportation trumps everything," he says. "If you can get people away from using cars, ultimately getting people to walk or bicycle, the (environmental) savings there are much better overall than the little bit of uptick that you're going to do in cleaning products or things like that."
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