The University of Georgia on Creating More Sustainable School Facilities

Todd Kerzie
Director of Services, Facilities Maintenance Department
Athens, Georgia

Tell us about your university.

The University of Georgia is located in Athens Georgia — 60 miles east of Atlanta — and is considered the flagship four-year research institution of the University of Georgia System. The University occupies and maintains over 22 million square feet of space. The main campus includes 484 buildings for a total of 18,472,117 square feet. We have approximately 38,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff.

What was your path to a career in school facilities management?

I was a Marine Corps Combat Engineer Officer for 21 years. During the latter half of my career, I had two fortunate assignments as the Facilities Management Officer at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. I grew fond of maintaining facilities while on active duty and, upon retirement in 2012, I transitioned my experience to higher education at a university in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I have now been serving the University of Georgia as the Services Director for 3 years.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy working with my team and seeing them be successful. I also really enjoy working with and developing our leaders so they can help promote “the why” we exist as an organization. As the heartbeat of the university, we champion its mission and sustain its resources to serve the state of Georgia and beyond. We create inviting and safe environments that allow students, faculty, staff, and visitors to learn, grow, innovate, and thrive. We are Focused, Motivated, Dependable. We are FMD.

What do you find most challenging?

With close to 375 building service workers (custodial staff), we always have a continuous turnover of employees. Yes, it takes that many employees to make our university shine and keep us safe. The most consistent challenge we have is recruiting when one of our employees retires, resigns, or otherwise moves on to different opportunities. The effort to post positions, review applications, interview, hire, and then train new employees is continuous and applied effort. As soon as we slow down or lessen our efforts here, the impact to our UGA community is soon realized.

Why is improving sustainability and air quality in University of Georgia facilities important to you?

I would like to say that improving sustainability and air quality in UGA facilities is not only important to me, but is really embodied in all FMD employees and our campus partners. As a comprehensive land-grant and sea-grant institution, I feel that sustainability has always been a foundational value and a core part of the culture at UGA.

What motivated you to join the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges program?

The Healthy Green Schools and Colleges program provides us a platform to collaborate with other schools — K-12s, colleges, and universities — and industry experts in best practices and technology in providing cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable environments. It also provides us national standards for which we can hold ourselves accountable to meet and strive for continued excellence. The Healthy Green Schools & Colleges certification program also provides a nationally recognized industry standard and a justification for the green cleaning products and methods we use when we have to educate clients or explain our scope of work and methods.

Were you surprised by your score on the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges self-assessment? If so, what was unexpected?

I don’t feel we were surprised by our score on the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges self-assessment. I feel, as with any self-assessment, if you are truly honest, you should already know how you are performing in certain areas and where you might need improvement. So, in the areas where we did not score as high, we were already aware that there were opportunities to improve.

How are you and your team using Healthy Green Schools & Colleges to identify or address areas of opportunity in your facilities?

We are taking steps towards improving in the areas where we scored lower than others. In our Building Services (custodial area), we have already translated our Building Services Academy presentation and binders into Spanish, which provides a more inclusive way of learning for some of our employees.

Our Grounds Department has also identified one of their zones and has designated it as a green zone pilot. The green zone will use all electric equipment — mowers, edgers, trimmers, blowers, etc. — in an effort to reduce our emissions related to landscape equipment.

Are colleagues or administrators outside of your department aware of your school’s participation in the program?

I believe this is an area of opportunity for us as we get further into the program and perform the official assessment; we need to communicate our participation and level of success.

What accomplishment are you most proud of from a health or sustainability standpoint?

We are really proud of our green cleaning program here at UGA and it is nothing that I can take credit for. Ms. Kimberly Thomas, recently retired Senior Director for Services, promoted and established the green cleaning mindset for our Services Team years ago. I have just been fortunate to fall on a great team and have been able to continue these efforts with support from our senior leadership, buy-in from the front line, and great collaboration with other departments within FMD and across campus. I think one effort that sets us apart from many is our Building Services Academy which is a five-day course (classroom & hands-on) that all new employees must go through prior to performing work in their assigned areas.

What’s next for the University of Georgia?

We plan to continue on with our green cleaning program with additional emphasis on quality control and assurance. We would like to automate our inspection process and standardize ATP testing. We will also continue to work with our colleagues in HVAC to improve IAQ by establishing a more proactive inspection and preventative maintenance program. Observing and gathering data of the Green Zone “all electric” landscape effort is on the horizon as well, and will commence once all the equipment is purchased and fielded.