How to Maintain Two Million Square Feet
of Floor Space without Panicking


Jimmy Lee scrapes a radiator in Pearsons Hall in preparation for repainting the room. Some of the cleaning supplies involved in the extensive summer residence hall maintenance program are visible in the foreground. Between one and three residence halls are painted each year.

After commencement, residence hall work slows down, right? Not for B&G's superintendent of general services Mike Buckley and his maintenance crews. Summer's the only time student rooms can be cleaned and painted, and even then projects must be scheduled around use of the halls by visitors attending campus conferences.

The work gets so complicated that the summer maintenance schedule in Buckley's office is a four-foot square. It's covered, in tiny type, with numbers and names identifying each of the nineteen residence halls, the dates visitors will occupy a space, and the remaining days into which all maintenance tasks must be fit.

Among the jobs for each summer are cleaning and sealing two million square feet of floor space, removing items left by students (the worst of which is dubbed "hoeing out" rooms), painting one to three residence halls a year, repairing damaged furniture, and replacing worn-out mattresses. And that's not counting the linen-changing, bathroom-cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming that must be repeated each time a conference group occupies a dorm. This year, the campus is handling nearly 30,000 "bed nights"--multiplying each overnight visitor by the number of nights stayed--so that's a lot of pillowcases and Vanish.

It takes Buckley--in consultation with his managers--about twenty work hours each spring to fill in the complex schedule, but that takes care of the entire summer's plans. For each hall on each day, the number of worker-hours needed is noted. Counting down along the top of the grid is the number of work days left before students return. Before the grid was developed, Buckley says, the answer to his question "Will the dorms be ready for the opening of school?" was always "Well, we hope so." Now each employee knows exactly what has to be done, where, and by what deadline. And work crews' schedules are coordinated so cleaners aren't assigned to the same space where others are waxing or painting.

Late August means crunch time, since everything must be ready for returning students, yet conferences continue. "A few years ago, we had to clean six halls in thirty-six hours," Buckley remembers. But the schedule reduces the need for such Herculean efforts. "It's like how every homeowner wants their lawn mowed the day before their Fourth-of-July cookout, but the mower can't do a week's worth of work in one day," Buckley explains. "We have that challenge on a bigger scale."