March 13, 2014

Werner Braun: Sustainability from a facility manager’s perspective

— Sustainability means different things to different people, but from the facility manager’s perspective, sustainability can be viewed somewhat like a three-legged stool: a stool that balances specifications, installation and maintenance.

There’s no question that targeting the correct specifications — choosing the right carpet for the right space — should be the first step in the process. Determining what type of carpet will look best, wear best and “cost best” (be economically sustainable) over time should be the initial priority.

The first step in that process is to clearly define the type of facility for which you are specifying carpet and outline the specific requirements of that facility.

To do that effectively, it’s important to consider how long the carpet will be used, the amount of foot traffic that will be generated, the types of dirt that may be tracked in, whether the area is a remodel or a new installation and whether there is modular furniture in the space.

While that may seem like a challenge, the good news is that today’s carpet offers a wide variety of choices in style, fiber composition and color, whether you are specifying broadloom for a corporate office, carpet tiles for an elementary school or plush carpet for a boutique hotel.

And over the past few decades, technology has given us multilevel loop and cut-loop patterns that allow diamond, bow and fleur-de-lis designs that “pop out” in sculptured effects, giving us so many more choices than the standard loop pile of the past.

The second important leg of the stool is proper installation. Carpet should be installed properly and efficiently to avoid waste and to maximize the life of the carpet.

Carpet installation must be properly planned, estimated and coordinated. The installation plan must include accurate measurements, show seam placement and detail areas requiring special considerations, such as unusual room shapes, closets, borders, etc.

Installation specifiers should provide drawings with the approved location of seams, edge moldings, carpet direction and accessories, such as adhesives and cushions.

Facility managers need to make sure that the surface upon which the carpet is to be installed is appropriate, by confirming concrete moisture and alkali conditions, cleanliness and surface quality, including floor levelness. A building contractor should also set appropriate room temperatures — 48 hours prior to installation at 65 to 95 degrees — and provide ventilation during and 48 to 72 hours after installation.

And no carpet could stand for long without its third leg, regular maintenance. The proper cleaning and maintenance of the carpeting in your facility can mean the difference between a carpet that lasts for two years and one that lasts for as long as 10 or 15 years.

In fact, the goal should be for the carpet to “go out of style” long before it loses its beauty and functionality.

Key to maintaining carpet for the long haul is to include four different techniques — vacuuming, spot cleaning, interval cleaning and restorative cleaning — in your maintenance program arsenal.

The first, which is often undervalued, is regular vacuuming. Dry vacuuming is the best way to remove soils, and 80 percent to 95 percent can be removed if done on a routine schedule.

Spot cleaning often becomes necessary and is most effective when performed soon after the spill has occurred, and by quickly removing those spots, the life and appearance of the carpet can be prolonged. When dealing with a liquid spill, blotting — not rubbing or scrubbing — with a clean white towel will help remove much of the spill. And there are many excellent products in the market today to help you improve your chances of removing a spot without harming carpet.

Interim cleaning with the aid of a high quality carpet extractor helps maintain the “surface” of the carpet, as well as improve its appearance. Some soils and particles are sticky, and remain in the fibers, causing the carpet to look dirty or dingy, but most — if not all — of the beauty of the carpet can be restored via this method.

And last, but not least, is restorative cleaning, which is best handled by qualified professionals using a variety of methods.

There’s no question that proper and regular maintenance is critical to the life of your facility’s carpet. An unplanned maintenance program can result in a carpet’s appearance level dropping to fair in three-four years, poor in four-five years, with replacement in six to seven years.

With neglected maintenance, new carpet can go from new to poor in a short time, which is not a good use of resources of any kind.

For facility managers, keeping the three components — specifications, installation and maintenance — in mind when planning or updating their facility can by the key to achieving sustainability.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.