Posted June 25, 2013 by Sarah Stroud 

Somtimes You Have to Take Things into Your Own Hands

My position is technically under the operations side of the union; however I infrequently deal with facilities management. Usually when I do it is going straight to our resident expert: Dawn Corbin, assistant director of facilities. Since opening our building in 2009, she has done an amazing job keeping it in the best condition, fixing any issues that have come about, and so much more. I sent her the skills set of Daily Facilities Management and Assessment.

When I received the email back, I never would have guessed all the work it took to accomplish some tasks in this building. And she had only answered one skill set under "knowledge required": Basic knowledge of current products, technology for floor coverings, wall coverings, and other fixed assets.

We opened our building in August 2009. Everything was new, including Dawn, who arrived to our campus right around opening. She has had to go through years of specs, attic stock, construction communications, and more. With any new position, you have to take time to get to know the staff, building, and more but who would have thought you would have to get to know the building this much.

Here is how Dawn uses the above skill set, according to her email:

It is a responsibility for any facilities manager to know and educate staff on the characteristics of all items as well as the cleaning/maintaining peculiarities. This can range anywhere from cleaning chemicals to mechanical systems. I am directly responsible for the preventative maintenance and standard operating procedures creation and implementation. This is ongoing and requires reviewing, researching, collecting data, products, materials, lifecycle monitoring, usage, and documented findings. Standard operating procedures are then assigned to staff to meet the needs of maintaining and usage.

Data is collected which leads to creation of documented and approved Preventative Maintenance Schedules and Standard Operating Procedures. It is then is assigned to staff and/or other departments to implement.

Often times, interacting frequently with manufacturers, associations, other departments, mid-level management, and front-line employees is a demand in this position.

When I came on board in this facility, waterless urinals were installed in the men's rooms. The odor emanating from the units was unbearable, and in my experience, having worked in facilities where these type urinals were installed, I knew this was an issue. I changed the cleaning standards of the units to include flushing the sewer lines from the top floor down, which did not solve the problem.

We had the manufacturer of the urinals out, along with the manufacturer of the cartridges, to visit our site. As both were discussing the cleaning procedures, I asked them to look underneath the units. There they found seepage of liquids outside the connections. The contractors removed all 33 urinals and thought correcting the connections would solve the issue.

This did not have an impact on the odor. I asked my staff to remove a urinal so I may observe the urinal connections inside the walls. I observed there was a copper connection from the base of the urinals to the cast iron pipe. I then positioned cameras to take pictures in areas I could not see. The photos showed clearly the urine had eaten through the copper piping and was seeping behind the walls.

The contractor was notified of the results. They replied that they had assembled the units just as the plan specified.

I researched using copper piping with waterless urinals and found all connections should have been and are required to be PVC piping. I then had all urinals and copper piping removed, installed PVC piping, removed all insulation behind walls, sanitized entire areas, and replaced all urinals and tiles. All while the facility was open during a semester.

This is knowledge that was shared with other facilities, associations, and the manufacturers websites.

I want to thank Dawn for sharing some of the not-so-glamorous aspects of the job and also thank her for sticking with the project and sharing her knowledge so other facility managers can improve their skills sets. I know our students and guests appreciate all of the knowledge and hard work she and her staff contribute to this building.


Sarah Stroud

Sarah Stroud is the Assistant Director, Administration and Support Services at University of North Carolina–Charlotte.


Great content. It is amazing how facility management includes knowing so much on so many different topics. I can't imagine what people in our positions did in the past without the internet as a helpful resource...
Chance Haugen
Comment posted 07/01/2013 9:19 AM
Note: To post a comment to The Commons, you must login to the ACUI website.
about the commons
The Commons is the online hub to discover new ideas and learn what is going on in the college union and student activities profession.
more ...
about the contributors

Meet the ACUI members who have volunteered to share their knowledge and insights as regular authors in The Commons.

more ...