Cherry on the Railroad originally uploaded by moogs.
I have to tell you: one of the things we do best here at Carpet and Rug Institute is orchestrate meetings. We might not do it with beers on the White House lawn, but, brother, we can put together a productive meeting or two. One of my all-time favorites happened a few years ago in Las Vegas. This was about the time when the Clark County School District which houses the Las Vegas area was going through the sixth year of a 10-year bond that was cranking out 12-16 new schools a year to meet the demands of the growing population. At the time, the Clark County School District was the 5th largest school district in the country, had some 244,000 students enrolled and was the fastest-growing school district in the land. I mean, we’re talking about averaging a new school opening once a month!
Werner Braun and I were headed to Vegas for a tradeshow and decided to see if we could meet with the Facility Manager for the school system to make sure he had all the up-to-date information on carpet - like Carpet Makes The Grade In Schools - and see if there was anything we could do help sway them into using as much of the fuzzy stuff as possible.
As any good sales person would, we went into the meeting with Fred Smith, the Assistant Superintendent and Facility Construction Manager for the system, armed with all the carpet ammunition we had. When we walked away from our hour-long meeting, we took with us two of the biggest smiles you could imagine.
Before we even got started, Mr. Smith proudly told us that ALL their facilities have carpet and they just signed a big contract with a CRI member. They also had a contract with another CRI member as well. They are very pleased with their carpet and specify it in all their new construction. He told us the school’s central office had gotten very few complaints over the past few years regarding carpet and/or its role in indoor air quality. They have addressed a few with some teachers on occasion, but they are mostly mold problems and that it wasn’t the carpet at issue but the moisture and dirt problem that had to be rectified.
Of course, this was music to our ears. Especially back then when moldaphobia was at its height. He went on to tell us the worst thing about building a school in Las Vegas was the dust problem of the desert. They had also had a significant increase in humidity levels over the past few years. In the last 10 years, relative humidity has risen from 4% outdoors and 30% indoors to 16 % outdoors and over 50% indoors. Huge population growth is the attributing factor (more irrigation, swimming pools etc.)
At the time, of the 227 current schools in the district, 130 of them had been built since 1990. Mr. Smith said that about half of the schools were less than 15 years old and the rest of them were over 30 years old, so they had to confront maintenance problems from two fronts: old vs. new. Based on the availability of funds for new construction ($3.5 billion bond for 88 new schools in 10-year period beginning in 1998) the most important thing for them was paying more money up front (life cycle costs) because the money was readily available for that, but it wouldn’t be near as available for remodeling and upkeep of facilities in the future. Obviously it was important the upfront money was well spent with long term consequences in focus.
That’s when he relayed one of our all-time favorite anecdotal stories we continue to use here at CRI. Mr. Smith said some of his operational folks (custodians etc.) had complained that carpet was too expensive to maintain on a yearly basis and they preferred the ease and management of VCT flooring. Central office bowed to their wishes on a few schools. Less than a year after the new VCT installation, those same operational folks said they were wrong and wanted their carpet back. It was easier to maintain and cheaper. They got their carpet back.
We relish these type stories because no matter how much we preach the cost and ease of maintenance of carpet in today’s tight budget environment, having “real-life” stories such as these can really drive home the point.
For Clark County School District, Mr. Smith said his entire goal in regards to the physical environment of the school facilities was to take into consideration what was the very best for the learning environment. Carpet met those goals. Mr. Smith mentioned the slip/fall benefits as well as the acoustical benefits. “It’s not only about the noise reduction in the classroom, but also in the hallways. Not only does it soften the noise when kids are going between classes, but even more importantly, when the halls are empty and classes are being taught, it reduces the noise of one kid or small groups making their way through the hallways so as not to disturb the classrooms.’’
We left that meeting that day having to lug back a lot of information we had prepared to sell to them because they were already sold. Usually I despise having to lug things back, but the fact I got this great endorsement for carpet and a “real-life” anecdote that continues to have life was well worth the trouble of packing things back into my suitcase for the trip home.
And here’s the real cherry on top: Fred Smith has since left the Las Vegas school system and heads up the Los Angeles Unified School District in a similar capacity, the nation’s largest school system!
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