Good systems are integrated.
The parts or processes work together — rather than against each other — to accomplish goals.
With natural systems or ecosystems, the integration is complex, finely balanced, and when that balance is maintained, life prospers.
Integrated systems are not only key to green environments, but also to green cleaning.
Address the complexities of setting up an effective cleaning system, properly integrate and balance the parts — or sub-systems — and the indoor environment benefits.
Understanding integrated systems is often easier by first understanding what they are not, starting with cleaning’s parts or sub-systems.
The following are examples of “dis-integrated” sub-systems.
A commercial office building has a very small entrance foyer with a single short entrance mat (3-feet-by-5-feet) placed horizontally rather than length-wise in front of the door.
Rather than capturing soil and contaminated dust at the door, due to inadequate capture matting, the cleaning staff must attempt to remove it later, after it has been ground into floors, circulated throughout the building, and settled on furnishings and electronics.
This is a dis-integrated sub-system.
The parts of the system work against each other, creating much more work than necessary and leading to an unhealthy and “un-green” environment in the process.
In another example, a building service contractor (BSC) uses the cheapest vacuum cleaners he/she can find with economy replacement filter bags, and then discourages workers from changing the filters too often to save money.
Unfortunately, the vacuums do not clean well and the filter bags permit loads of dust in the invisible range below 10 microns to pass into the air where it can impact surfaces and people (especially the cleaning staff) whose lungs become the final level of filtration.
The BSC complains about labor costs, including dusting, but his/her own cleaning tools and processes are creating much of the problem of settling dust, dirty surfaces, and indoor airborne contamination.
Conversely, here are examples and results of properly integrated sub-systems.
A successful retail store chain builds each location with a very large entry foyer and outfits the entryway with floor matting — basically heavy-duty, bi-level commercial carpeting — that covers 250 or more square feet.
After taking 15 to 20 steps across the matted foyer area, most patrons entering the store have had their shoe soles almost completely cleaned and dried.
The need for washing, scrubbing and stripping floors using strong chemicals and manual labor is reduced substantially, along with dust levels from outside contaminants.
Another example, a medical catheter manufacturing plant hired a cleaning contractor that uses HEPA-filtered backpack vacuums instead of dust mops to clean production areas.
Not only were floor cleaning labor costs reduced significantly, but air quality conditions were improved so much that the catheter tube rejection rate of 10 percent from airborne contamination was reduced to 4 percent, according to a 2005 report by Janitronics Building Services, Albany, NY.
One more example, cleaning managers at a 1.5 million-square-foot software company headquarters adopted a system of vacuuming to improve indoor air quality (IAQ).
The results were confirmed by a low-tech method: The effect on a dust-allergic employee who previously ran an air purifier in her office 24 hours a day.
Four months after the adoption of the new vacuuming program in one of the office buildings, the employee known to be highly allergic to indoor air contaminants informed the building manager that she no longer needed to use her air purifier, according to the WordPerfect/Novell Applications Group, Orem, UT.
Effective, complete systems are inherently green
While recognizing the importance of focusing on sub-systems (the parts of cleaning) such as those mentioned above, educated cleaning professionals strive to integrate processes across the entire operational system or ecosystem.
Team Cleaning® is a good example of an approach that enables system-wide integration.
Like creating an architectural blueprint or fine machine schematic, Team Cleaning is first diagrammed on paper or by computer spreadsheet analysis, based on a building’s cleanable space and workloading data.
Team Cleaning’s sub-systems — specialists, tools, skills, schedules, job card assignments, and quadrants — are designed to precisely integrate within the overall system producing clean, healthy buildings at the lowest expenditure of time, energy, and other resources.
Since energy savings is a major driver behind the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Efficiency Design) program and efforts to curb climate change, Team Cleaning can be an effective part of a green building operations program.
Energy savings from switching off lights sooner can be considerable.
Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, VA, saved more than $300,000 in lighting energy costs over three years by switching to Team Cleaning.
Because Team Cleaning involves treating a building like an ecosystem, and ecosystems are ever-changing and dynamic, Team Cleaning is a flexible process.
For example, each cleaning position — light duty specialist, vacuum specialist, restroom specialist, and utility specialist — is analyzed and configured to meet the specific needs of a particular facility, focused on the facility’s prime users, but also on its changing needs.
A major key to applying Team Cleaning to any environment is proper training.
Workers need to know precisely what is expected of them and of their fellow workers, what tools and procedures to use (and how) for each task and the extent of accountability the team accepts for results.
Is it easy to set up? No.
Like all complex systems, including those found in nature, it is not easy or automatic to set up a proper, fully functioning cleaning team.
Will quality improve? Almost always.
Using the right equipment (with proper training) almost guarantees the quality of cleaning will improve significantly.
For example, Team Cleaning mandates that vacuum specialists use a lightweight, portable backpack vacuum.
This tool is faster, easier to use, less cumbersome, more maneuverable, and its suction and multi-level filtration systems are powerful enough to remove and capture extremely fine dust particles instead of re-circulating them.
Indoor air quality is thereby enhanced markedly while also reducing the frequency of dusting needed.
The use of three or four standardized chemicals and pre-packaged portion systems are also helpful.
These deliver green benefits since they eliminate waste, encourage proper dilutions, make fresh solutions more easily and can be tracked for recordkeeping and quality control purposes.
Does creating specialists limit their overall skills base?
In a well-coordinated team, workers learn each other’s tasks as well as their own and can substitute for temporary absences of another team member.
Periodically rotating positions so that team members cross-train is standard procedure in Team Cleaning training regimens.
Also, the best Team Cleaning programs measure results and what produced them, fulfilling cleaning’s purpose and green mandate by gauging the system’s effectiveness at the removal of unwanted matter.
For example, a study of cleaning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that found a standardized approach to housekeeping utilizing (OS1), incorporating Team Cleaning, affords the highest level of dust removal.
Environmental sampling of dusts, fungi, bacteria and aerosol was conducted at Carroll Hall prior to and during the (OS1) pilot study.
To compare (OS1) to Zone Cleaning, samples were also taken in Dey Hall, a Zone Cleaned building adjacent to Carroll Hall.
According to the scientist overseeing the project: “Cleaning effectiveness is measured in terms of the quantity of unwanted matter removed. During the Carroll Hall pilot, (OS1) produced a measurable cleaning result that is (at least in this study) a factor of two to five times more effective in removing dust from the building envelope. The data suggest that the (OS1) system better manages fungal spores and reduces the risk of allergic reaction of occupants. The two highest fungal levels as indicated by TNTC (Too Numerous to Count) plates were found in zone-cleaned processes.”
Throughout the pilot study, there was building construction adjacent to Carroll Hall.
The construction activity added to housekeeping requirements and also affected indoor air quality.
“In the face of these extraordinary and less-than-desirable outside conditions over the course of the pilot study, the (OS1) program reduced dust concentration in Carroll Hall by 40 to 50 percent. The IAQ data are remarkably similar to the data collected in the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center Study in 1990 that demonstrated that a systematic cleaning program has a positive influence on IAQ,” said the scientist.
Throughout the pilot study, beginning in the training sessions, measurements were made of particulate matter emissions associated with the (OS1) and Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label backpack vacuums, and other vacuums currently in use as part of the Zone Cleaning system.
During the (OS1) training, a dust measurement was made on a Green Label backpack vacuum and an upright vacuum.
There was virtually no detectable emission from the Green Label vacuum (32 ug/m3), compared to a very high emission (240 ug/m3) from the upright.
A level greater than 100 ug/m3 is considered unsanitary and potentially harmful to a large segment of the population.
Similar measurements were collected using TSI, DustTrak Aerosol Monitor (model 8520) with a 10 micrometer nozzle at various times during May and June.
Peak readings at the exhaust of vacuums were taken during the initial first few minutes of operation.
In addition, area measurements were collected around head height (five to six feet) during vacuuming of carpet.
The (OS1) vacuuming system was found to be vastly superior to the zone method in measurements of particle retention and air emissions.
Adopting integrated and time-saving processes — and tracking measurable results — will help you go green, while lowering your carbon, environmental, and fiscal footprint.
Allen Rathey is president of InstructionLink/JanTrain, Inc.