Impact on Learning

Des Moines University

Project Snapshot

PROJECT: Green/Team Cleaning Program Rebuild
INSTITUTION: Des Moines University
LOCATION: Des Moines, IA
COMPANY NAME: ProTeam, the Vacuum Company

Des Moines University

Giving students clean, safe facilities in which to learn is one of the most important things an institution can do. Protecting student health leads to more days in the classroom, which leads to greater knowledge retention and success.


In December 2016, when Nancy Macedo began as custodial manager at the largest medical school in Iowa, Des Moines University (DMU), she had a clean slate. The Bostonbased facility services company UG2 had just been contracted by the university after 17 years with their previous service provider. The custodial staff was newly hired and ready to be trained on efficient tools and processes. Her task was to rebuild the cleaning program from the ground up.

“The university needed cleaner buildings; they need to see a dramatic change,” says Macedo. “We moved to efficient, effective and healthy green cleaning methods.”

DMU educates about 1,700 students in eight graduate disciplines. Macedo’s staff of 20 cleans 664,000 square feet of facility space with only part-time hours. To be more productive with fewer hours, she trained them to work in teams of specialists. Each specialist perfects a limited number of cleaning tasks and does them in a more efficient and effective way (vacuum specialist, restroom specialist, etc.). They use innovative tools, like color-coded microfiber, certified green chemicals and high-filtration ProTeam Super Coach Pro backpack vacuums.

After weeks of initial training, the staff began cleaning the university. They discovered intense soil buildup from many years of inadequate cleaning.

Des Moines UniversityTHE SOLUTION

“It was 17 years of accumulated dirt in some places,” says Macedo. “The vacuum specialist would start with a brand new filter bag in the early morning, and, within three hours, it was jam-packed.”

The backpack vacuums also greatly improved productivity. A former employee told Macedo that it used to take over two hours to vacuum the auditorium with an upright vacuum due to maneuvering around the stationary chairs. The vacuum specialist can now clean the same space in just 35.2 minutes with the Super Coach Pro backpack vacuum. (Macedo timed it with a stopwatch.)

“The staff loves the backpack vacuums,” says Macedo. “The fit is extremely important. Once you adjust it to the user, they are very comfortable.”


For Macedo, providing productive, ergonomic tools is part of empowering the employee to succeed.

“I want everybody to be successful in his or her position. We’re always making sure that our workers are treated as first class citizens, because they do such important work,” says Macedo. “Clean buildings are critical for the university to fulfill its mission. They help protect the health of the students, so that the students can learn and do their best work.”

Editor’s Review

The U.S. EPA’s 2010 study, “How Does Indoor Air Quality Impact Student Health and Academic Performance?” indicates that substandard environmental conditions in schools, such as inadequate cleaning or poor ventilation, can cause serious health problems, which directly impacts academic performance. This focus by Des Moines University on improving their custodial cleaning program is an example of providing a healthy, clean environment, promoting student success.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .