Summertime dreaming has often been a coping skill for those of us in northern climates. When the weather gets so cold that it is described in vulgar terms that equate it to a witch’s bosom or a rat’s behind, we all go a bit crazy. It’s often time to put on Jimmy Buffet or Bob Marley music and a Hawaiian shirt and start dreaming of warmer days ahead.
If you’re a campus planner or facilities administrator, summertime dreaming often means something quite different. Instead, this time of year often means that you are scrambling to put the finishing touches on summer construction plans. This is often the final home stretch of a particular project that has been in process for years.
If you came into the recycling or sustainability field as an ex-student, one of the harder things to get used to is that planning for the next summer occurs in the fall and early winter. While you are worried about fall orientation and teaching new students about recycling, campus planners are already well into the designs for the next summer’s projects. It’s a lot like retail stores. They’re always a season or two ahead. By the time you need a pair of shorts in July, the stores already have their racks filled with fall and winter clothes. Like it or not, you have to plan accordingly.
If you want high-profile recycling bins in an upcoming summer project, you need to be talking urgently with your planning department now, especially if you didn’t back in the fall. Some things to be prepared for in that conversation:
Aesthetics: You will rarely find a better time to advocate for high-aesthetic recycling bins than as part of a new building construction or renovation. Your organization has just spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars building or renovating a new building. Planners and architects have spent years of their lives on this project. They care what the finished product looks like. They are very open and interested in conversations about stuff that is going to augment and accentuate their hard work rather than detract from it.
One think to keep in mind as a recycling/sustainability coordinator when talking aesthetics is that you have to let some stuff go. Architects are going to want some features you wouldn’t normally consider, and might not want some things (e.g. color codes) that you would normally push for. I’d recommend pushing for the stuff that’s critical (to me that’s restrictive openings, parallel access, ergonomics so that it can be easily emptied by the collection staff and decent signage) and letting the planners and architects have the final say in the rest (specifics of colors, finishes, etc.). Remember, if they don’t like the way bins look in their brand new hallways, they are going to relegate your bins to hidden areas where no one is going to see them, or use them (see my post Better Aesthetics = Better Results).
Try to view high-aesthetic bins as furnishings not custodial supplies: Many construction and renovation projects have a tiered funding system. The specific nomenclature will vary from state to state or organization to organization, but there is typically a top tier for stuff that is part of the building (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc), a secondary tier for furnishings (desks, chairs, bookcases, lab tables, etc.), and a tertiary tier that includes stuff like custodial equipment and wastebaskets.
Here’s the issue: almost every construction and renovation project I have seen is over budget by the time it starts getting to this point. Thus, the lower you are on the tier system, often the more pressure there is to cut corners out of the construction budget. The rationalization is of then that if a tertiary-tier item it critical, you could always make up the difference out of the annual operations budget later on. If you were incensed as you read that last sentence, you realize that rarely if ever goes well, but that is often the justification.
I’d encourage you to view high aesthetic public area bins as a “furnishings” that will augment this new building, and help to promote the green–building features of the building (see my post Are You Green But Unseen). Doing so could make the difference between getting the bin that has all those advantages, and getting a bottom-grade glorified wastebasket.
Lead times: Higher aesthetic bins are often more customized and built much closer to deadline. That can mean different lead times than you are used to for the standard bins you normally get out of a custodial supply catalog. When it comes time to deploy those bins at the end of the construction project, your window of opportunity is going to be short. Summer construction projects often run right up to (and even little beyond) the building opening for occupants in the fall. You need to make sure that you know your lead times and have planned accordingly to hit that target window. That means not only production and delivery times by the manufacturer/distributor, but also your own purchasing lead times. Will this order require some sort of competitive bid process? What is the normal lead time from purchase request through to completed purchase order? Will this need special approvals?
When it’s cold outside, summer might seem like a long way away. But with a little planning, perspective and knowledge, you can help to ensure that your summertime dreaming now avoids a nightmare next summer.