Green Cleaning: Window of Opportunity

Tap into the expertise of your personnel.

The news has been filled with stories about the economy and how to stimulate it, as well as discussions about building and renovating schools. So it's a good time for schools to incorporate greener concepts.

Schools and universities have acquired significant knowledge from the U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED rating systems. Other valuable sources: the Collaborative for High Performance Schools and tools from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, such as the IAQ Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM).

Plenty of information exists to help create space that is more conducive to learning with gentler impacts on the environment and lower operating costs. But this column is about recognizing the role of those with expertise in cleaning. It is important that education institutions make specific efforts regarding operations, cleaning and maintenance.

Some areas where people with cleaning experience can help:

  • Selecting carpets and other flooring materials

    An informed decision requires an understanding of what it will take to keep light-colored carpets and floors clean, especially if there is no budget allocated.

  • Restroom designs

    Designers need to understand the problems associated with grout (especially light-colored) between floor tiles. This includes the size of the tile, the color of the grout and perhaps even the choice of a different flooring material. Plus, input on paper dispensers, size of trash receptacles and other issues can result in sizable savings (both dollars and environmental) over the life of a building.

  • Size and location of custodial storage areas and janitor closets

    There is no “standard” size or location; these need to be decided based on what is going to be cleaned and what equipment will be used. This information can come only from those who know something about cleaning.

  • Entryways designed with matting systems to capture soil before it gets into the building

    It is important to remember that these areas require electrical outlets so the mats can be vacuumed. Mats also can be used outside entrances. Water spigots should be available near front entrances to clean sidewalks and exterior entryways.

  • Exterior landscaping to prevent soils, such as flowers and berries from plants

    Cleaning experts can provide advice to landscapers, as the selection of plants can directly affect the soils that get tracked indoors.

  • Loading docks

    Maintenance personnel can help designers understand what is needed in loading dock and waste-storage areas. They have to discourage pests, be large enough for compactors, and be easy to clean.

Cleaning expertise is crucial for the greening of new or renovated education facilities. Now more than ever, it can make a difference that will affect those buildings for years to come.

Stephen Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization. He can be reached at SteveAshkin@GreenCleaningNetwork.org.

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