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Customers pitch-in for custodial pilot program

Facilities Management began a pilot program in February to refocus custodial services

By Chris Kelleher

custodial 165
The Mondale Hall B&G staff have received positive feedback for their participation in the custodial pilot program.
Photos by Chris Kelleher

March 4, 2009

Facilities Management, that department of University Services responsible for everything from leaky sinks to land care, began a pilot program in February to refocus custodial services in several buildings by spending more time cleaning high-impact public spaces, such as entrances, classrooms, hallways, and bathrooms, and less time on private spaces like offices and labs.

As part of the pilot project, office trash and cleaning services have been reduced from five days per week to one, and research labs from five days per week to three. The participating buildings include Mondale Hall, Weaver-Densford Hall (floors 5, 6, 7), Moos Tower (15th floor), Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), and Donhowe Building.

The program aligns the U's standards with those of other Big Ten schools. On the days custodians no longer clean offices and labs, U faculty and staff manage their own desk-side waste and recycling.

This new model will help the University both economically and environmentally. If implemented campuswide, the process could save more than $1 million, according to Facilities Management leadership. The project will also reduce the number of plastic bags used and will increase recycling. According to the SMART program (Self Managed Activities for Recyclables and Trash), a recycling concept developed by the University's Recycling Programs, placing responsibility on the individual to empty their own waste and recycling containers does not mandate behavior change, but rather, facilitates change. For more information, see personal responsibility and recycling.

Everyone pitching-in

Think of it as democratizing waste management. And while the reduction in custodial services places more responsibility on customers to monitor their waste levels, and occasionally empty their own receptacles, most pilot participants are embracing the spirit of the program.

School of Dentistry Dean Patrick Lloyd empties his wastebasket in the hallway of Moos Tower.
School of Dentistry Dean Patrick Lloyd empties his wastebasket in the hallway of Moos Tower.

School of Dentistry dean Patrick Lloyd commented, "Not only has the transition been smooth, it hasn't required much additional effort. And everyone seems to feel good about the potential impact both financially and environmentally."

Linda Lokensgard, Law School Building and events manager, says that the pilot is going well. The changes were communicated beforehand, she says, so people knew what to expect when the system was implemented. Others commented that they were used to such a system from past work experiences and weren't surprised by the change.

Cost savings and productivity

Monetary savings, high productivity, and cleaner facilities make for a great combination, and the efforts seem to be paying off.

Custodial supervisor Mike Howells believes that the program has led to increased productivity. "The overall cleanliness of Mondale Hall seems to have improved by consistently cleaning all public areas on a daily basis," says Howells.

The custodial pilot project runs from February 1 until March 31. Facilities Management will conduct customer surveys during and after the pilot, while supervisors continue to perform quality assurance checks in participating buildings. If the success continues, the program will expand to campuswide.

For more about Facilities Management, see about FM.

To see other cost savings measures, see the story, From common sense to common practice.