When the University of Georgia was incorporated by an Act of the General Assembly on January 20, 1785, Georgia became the first state in the U.S. to charter a state-supported university.
Today, UGA has 380 buildings — 9.5 million square feet — on 615 acres, with 44,000 students, faculty and staff.
On a campus this vast, with such a high number of individuals, the physical plant services department — 325 staff members working both day and evening shifts — becomes an essential function in the daily operation for the campus community.
Because of the high number of employees and the sheer size of the areas they clean and maintain, something needed to be done to ensure that everyone was using best practices and working safely and efficiently — a standard needed to be set.
To ensure every custodial worker is proficient and knowledgeable, all staff complete a comprehensive two-week training program that covers green cleaning, workplace and occupational safety, general cleaning scope and frequencies, customer service, cultural diversity, conflict resolution, preventative and routine maintenance and equipment usage.
However, this internal training lacked one major factor: A third-party assessment.
So, in the summer of 2007, the University of Georgia physical plant services department began preparing for the International Sanitary Supply Association''s (ISSA) Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification.
The road to certification
"Self-led tutorials were employed to prepare staff and inform building occupants about why we were involved in CIMS certification, what cleaning operations were relevant to the certification and what our cleaning operation meant to the university in terms of enhancing the overall learning environment," states Kimberly Thomas, assistant director of the services department.
The UGA physical plant services department staff submitted documentation supporting its compliance with the requirements of the standard in each of the five key sections: Quality systems, service delivery, human resources, health, safety and environmental stewardship and management commitment.
After Bruce Stark of Stark Consulting, an independent, accredited assessor, conducted an on-site inspection of the university''s systems, processes and documentation and compliance was achieved, UGA was granted CIMS certification with honors.
The honors distinction is given to operations that go above and beyond what is required for certification and comply with at least 85 percent of the optional, recommended criteria, including such things as open communication and highly-involved participation among all students and staff and transparency in the process as a whole.
The right frame of mind
The CIMS mentality has been with UGA well before the decision to pursue certification was made.
"In some cases, we had been performing the requirements of the CIMS standard, but had not documented our operating procedures," explains Thomas.
Director of the services department, Dexter Fisher, wanted to see if adopting sustainable practices and incorporating green cleaning could be effective and produce cost-savings for the university.
This began in 2006 during a renovation project at Old College — the oldest building on campus.
Since then, sustainable practices have been incorporated into the maintenance of 28 historic buildings in what is dubbed the North Campus Green Corridor and eight buildings in the South Campus Green Corridor.
UGA plans to incorporate another 30 buildings into the North Campus Green Corridor and an additional 50 into the South Campus Green Corridor before the start of the 2009 school year.
The new protocol
Since the university began evaluating and restructuring its cleaning and maintenance program, the physical plant services department has removed over 350 traditional cleaning products from their inventory, which led to a cost-savings of over $212,000 per year.
Numerous traditional cleaning chemicals have been replaced by two Green Seal certified products.
UGA has also adopted Green Seal certified hand soap, paper products and floor products to complement the environmental cleaning program.
Additional key factors to this holistic approach focused on training through a Building Services Academy, maintaining a quality plan and conducting frequent cleaning assessments to validate the progress of the UGA green program.
The current plan is to instate a green cleaning operation for the entire campus within three years.
UGA will have a recertification evaluation from an ISSA independent assessor in two years.
The recertification process will consist of the assessor reviewing business operations to check for changes in departmental policies and procedures and determine if previous recommendations made to the university have been implemented.
"We look forward to the challenge of adding additional campus facilities to our green cleaning roster and continuing to work with staff to maintain a high level of communication and professionalism," notes Thomas.
For more information on the UGA green program, visit their website at gogreen.uga.edu.
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