How Four New Orleans Monuments Went from Zero to 90% Recycling in Less than Three Years
Established in 1949, the General Services Administration (GSA) provides centralized procurement for the federal government, offering the products, services, and facilities that federal agencies need to serve the public. Among the GSA’s numerous responsibilities, it manages a portfolio of buildings and grounds valued at more than $500 billion. It also oversees the preservation of historic properties. A key goal of the GSA is to save taxpayer money through the sustainable management of real estate and other assets.
Among the many buildings maintained by the GSA are four historic properties in New Orleans: the Hale Boggs Federal Building, the U.S. Custom House, the John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals Building, and the F. Edward Hebert Federal Building. Together, these four buildings comprise more than 1.5 million square feet of office space, and are among the highest valued government buildings in the country. Some of the unique features in these buildings include Greek revival marble floors, 20-foot ceilings with bronze design elements, ornate courtrooms with walnut paneling, intricately carved judges’ benches, porcelain and glass architectural features, and intricate brass and wood décor—all of which require specialized cleaning.
This already complex maintenance situation was made more complicated in 2016 when an executive order was issued requiring all federal buildings to recycle at least 50% of their waste. At that time, none of the GSA’s New Orleans properties were recycling in any capacity.
Now they had just three years to comply with the executive order.
PRIDE Industries has provided maintenance services to the GSA since 2007. In New Orleans, these services include carpet and floor care, trash removal, polishing porcelain and metal surfaces, cleaning interior and exterior glass doors and surrounding glass areas, window washing, policing inside areas, and wiping atrium plants.
To make sure the GSA met its recycling goals in New Orleans, PRIDE Industries devised a user-friendly recycling program and implemented it in phases. First, new cleaning and recycling protocols were developed, based on sustainability best practices. Then, the nearly 50 PRIDE Industries employees who clean the historic buildings were trained in the new procedures.
But simply adding recycling options and working with the cleaning staff would not be enough. In order to achieve the 50% benchmark required by the executive order, the tenants in each building would have to recycle too. In order to bring them on board, PRIDE Industries developed an education and communication program that included face-to-face visits with each tenant.
- 45+ employees—90% of whom have a disability—conduct specialized cleaning daily
- Comprehensive cleaning protocols developed and implemented
- Environmentally friendly maintenance—active and ongoing recycling
- Sustainable cleaning tools sourced, used, and recycled
- CIMS-Green Building custodial and grounds services for historic buildings
The employee training, tenant communication, and easy-to-use recycling options were highly successful. By the end of three years, all four buildings had exceeded the requirements of the executive order—and achieved a waste recycling rate of 90%. Not long after this, the GSA renewed its contract with PRIDE Industries for an additional five years.
The protocols developed by PRIDE Industries were so successful that they were adopted by the GSA for use in other historic federal buildings. In Cincinnati, Ohio, these techniques were used to enable the Potter Federal Courthouse to become LEED-certified. Another building that gained LEED certification using these methods was the Richard Sheppard Arnold Courthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas. Both of these courthouses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In summary, the recycling program developed by PRIDE Industries enabled the GSA to:
- Decrease its environmental footprint with a 90% recycling rate.
- Switch to cost-saving and environmentally friendly equipment.
- Rely on a knowledgeable workforce trained in sustainability.
- Gain a tenant communication model that can be used to increase recycling in other GSA buildings.
- Use these new cleaning protocols to enable LEED certification of other GSA historic buildings.