There has never been a tougher time to work in the installations world. The pandemic has put an emphasis on building maintenance like never before. As a result, cleaning for optics shifted to cleaning for health. The question is, have you been successful in making the switch?
As a facilities manager who started out in a school district in the middle of the pandemic, I was a bit at a loss on how to handle this “new world”. Normal school building cleaning and maintenance procedures that had been in place for about two decades were no longer adequate to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New virus data and cleanup recommendations were coming out every week, leading to an influx of questions from community members who were now interested in facility management. People were calling to ask us what level of filters we use in our HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, how often do we change them, what product we use to disinfect surfaces, the list goes on. What was once an overlooked department was now in the spotlight.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed and questioning some of our procedures, I turned to the internet. I knew I couldn’t be the only manager feeling this. That’s when I came across the Healthy Green School & Colleges website, which is a partnership between the Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) and Green Seal.
I was already familiar with Green Seal – which is the gold standard for green chemical certifications – so when I saw this I was intrigued. As I researched the Healthy Schools campaign, I was also impressed with their experience working with schools. It seemed like a great partnership, so I reached out and connected.
The more I learned about the program, the more I wanted to be part of it. I am now one of 23 school departments and colleges nationwide to be an early adopter of this new initiative to create healthier, more sustainable facility management programs to improve school environments for students. and staff. Let me tell you what I like about it:
The pilot standard (which is publicly available) was created by professionals who work in the industry – people in the field who come from schools and universities across the country. It enables schools to identify and implement low-cost or no-cost measures that have a significant impact on indoor air quality and, therefore, the health of building occupants. I found this standard particularly useful because in a short time I was able to tell not only where I needed to improve, but also what I needed to perform at a high level.
For my school district, what I found was that we were doing a lot of things right, but there were no standard operating procedures written anywhere. We were operating solely on the institutional knowledge of my permanent employees. As I looked through the different categories of the pilot standard, the idea of having a standard operating procedure kept coming up, and I realized I had to put one in place.
Being part of the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges program has the added benefit of introducing you to a network of professionals across the county. It gave me the opportunity to connect with other principals who work in schools and who understand this environment. Connecting with them and hearing how they compared to pilot standard gave me some peace of mind that I was not alone in certain areas of struggle. I also took the opportunity to get feedback on what worked and what didn’t in their schools.
The result of discussions with other early adopters of this program was that they all liked the format and ease of use of the pilot standard as a self-assessment tool. This allows any manager to objectively measure their current facilities schedule.
It can be used as a scoring system when evaluating the school against the standard. This point-based grading system encourages schools to continue improving at their own pace. Schools that achieve the highest level of success can seek third-party certification, earning public recognition for their verified expertise in providing healthy school environments.
I’ve been with the group since March and since then I’ve been slowly working on creating standard operating procedures for everything. Although it may seem tedious, it has actually been great.
Not only will this streamline procedures, but I was also able to hire my staff to help with the process. They see the benefit of having standard operating procedures. It also helped with training – reminding my older staff how to tighten up processes, serving as a resource for my new staff, and providing a place to go if any of them forget part of their training. It also helped arm the department against anyone questioning what is being done behind the scenes.
Overall, being part of the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges pilot program was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a facility manager. The Healthy Green Schools & Colleges pilot will soon transition to a full program launch, and I encourage anyone in the field to at least look at the standard and rate their institution. There is bound to be an area where they can improve.
David Bagdasarian is the facilities manager for the Cape Elizabeth School Department in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and an early adopter of green and healthy schools and colleges.
PUBLISHED ON: 08/17/2022