Reitz union renovation to accommodate student life
The University of Florida’s student center, the Reitz Union, built in 1967 recently underwent a seventy-five million dollar renovation.
The University Of Florida’s student center, the Reitz Union is named after Dr. J. Wayne Reitz who was the fifth president of the university, serving from 1955 – 1967. Dr. Reitz presided over a period of unprecedented growth and change at the University of Florida. Hundreds of new facilities were constructed in those twelve years and the UF student population grew from nine-thousand to nearly twentythousand. The student union that bears his name opened in 1967 to accommodate a burgeoning UF population.
Since then, the university has grown at a steady rate and is now home to fifty-two thousand students. In 1967 there were 150 student organizations, while today there are over one-thousand that this vibrant community has developed to enhance student life. While the academic services of UF continued to grow, the space by which student clubs and groups met—and where students decompress— had stayed the same. Faced with the challenge of continuing to defer maintenance issues and the increasing student needs for space, the university opted to invest in the cultural hub of the Reitz Union and undertook a seventyfive million dollar renovation beginning in 2013. Earlier this year, the center was completed and unveiled to the university community. What students discovered when entering the vast facility was a space reinvented and ready to accommodate their diverse needs.
The Reitz Union is the epicenter of student life on the campus with over four hundred thousand square feet, meeting the needs of over one-thousand clubs and student organizations
Student life moves home
The existing structure boasted ninety thousand feet of renovated space, while another one-hundred-twenty-six thousand square feet was added. Spaces for learning, playing and collaboration are accentuate by a thirty-six room hotel on-site.
Two ball rooms, twenty-two meeting rooms, a theatre, game room, and an arts and crafts center host student entertainment and community events. The student services offices are also on-site to serve the student body creating a multifaceted student union that caters to this budding millennial demographic that will be entering the workforce in the next one to four years.
Director of Operations Michael Mironack, has worked at the Reitz Union for twenty-one years. From his perspective the renovations have been key to keeping up with a campus of young adults who deserve and demand world class facilities. While the renovation process was challenging for Mironack and his staff of over thirty cleaning professionals, it was well worth it. “Students needed to increase their level of interaction with one another; places to see and be seen.” The space was purposefully designed as a cultural melting pot with an architectural goal to create collaboration space and build community.
The Reitz Union is the epicenter of student life on the campus with over four hundred thousand square feet, meeting the needs of over one-thousand clubs and student organizations.
During the two and a half year process of upgrading the student union, some creative redirection of foot traffic and nimble staffing changes were required on a daily basis as all departments remained open and accessible to the students they served. Mironack says that it was important to keep construction areas cordoned off and dust at a minimum during the renovation. Antoinette Anderson, custodial manager says that customer service was the main goal during the renovation process and from her assessment the facility managers rose to the occasion during the process. “Many people commented that they didn’t even notice the construction crews were on-site, and that the impact the construction crews had on students enjoying of the facilities was minimal,” says Anderson. Throughout the process Mironack and his team focused on keeping the floors and restrooms clean. He says, “If the floors and restrooms are clean then people feel comfortable and safe here.”
Angeline Baker exits an all-gender restroom of the Reitz Union. The renovation created twenty new restrooms, eight of which are all gender or family restrooms and are handicap accessible.
Restrooms that accommodate
In order to serve the 2016 era student population, the Reitz Union increased bathrooms from eleven to thirty-one, nine of which are gender neutral. There previously was only one gender neutral facility. Mironack says, “The University of Florida has a large lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender population and the Reitz Union was built to be attentive to their needs.”
Shane Philhower, custodial supervisor says the biggest advantage to the gender neutral bathroom layout is that multiple bathrooms on each floor allows for consistent cleaning of the rooms while keeping another facility open on the same floor. He says that since the additional bathrooms were completed that, “people don’t have to ride the elevator up or down a floor hoping to that a facility will be available,” a practice Philhower says was all too common for his team’s customer service focus. Multiple gender neutral restrooms on each floor also allows custodians to take their time with thorough daily cleaning and periodic deep cleaning. “My crews can take their time to do the job right without being rushed by people who need to go,” says Philhower.
The renovation design also added two showers which will impact the Reitz Union’s ability to achieve LEED certification. Faced with mixing a new structure with the existing building Mironack says that LEED certification for the Reitz Union pushes the boundaries for LEED energy conservation. “All that’s left for us to do is submit the paperwork, but we qualify,” says Mironack.
One shower is in the dance studio and the other is in the center of the facility to accommodate students before prayer or any student that wants to meditate. The foot washing station shower adjoins an expansive reflection room, flanked with a wall made for shoe storage. This unique tucked away space is a room for any student to meditate and a sacred reprieve for those students who pray several times each day. Philhower says that before the space was constructed students washed their feet in the bathroom sinks. “This created issues for students that had to lift their feet to the sinks and for the custodians who had to clean up the water that went everywhere in the process.”
A foot washing station and meditation room with nearby storage cubbies for shoes is an example of how the University of Florida is catering to a diverse student population of millennials.
Automation and sustainability
In this era of fully automated facilities the Reitz Union opted for motion sensor toilets and lighting, handicap entry actuators, LED sensor lighting, and low flow toilets and urinals. Prior to the renovation waterless urinals were installed and the custodial team was challenged by this modification. Philhower says, in his experience that although waterless was supposed to translate into savings in water that they were altogether a bad choice. “Urine crystallizes and is extremely caustic. The waterless urinals caused the pipes to corrode and we had to inject chemicals all the time to combat the odor.”
“Students needed to increase their level of interaction with one another; places to see and be seen.” ~mike mironack
Ever attentive to minor details, the team utilizes Unger Stingray glass cleaning poles to clean windows at the ground floor and restroom mirrors. The latest microfiber towels are used and color coded for different cleaning uses. Philhower prefers to use green cleaning products methodologies like Host’s cellulose pulp dry carpet extraction for ballrooms and other carpeted areas and bio enzymatic floor cleaner instead of more caustic cleaners like bleach and ammonia. Philhower says retraining his crews to use cleaning solutions that have no smell has been challenging. A few years ago one of his staff members went so far to bring in his own bleach because we stopped using it. “He thought we were wrong and that bleach was the only way to get the job done.” Philhower knows that culture plays a large part in defining what clean looks and smells like, but cultural norms have to be challenged when safety and sustainability are at stake.
While green products are always the goal, efficiency is also a major focus at the Reitz Union because the facility is used at such a high pace by so many students throughout the year. Certain products on the market can make cleaning more efficient and one of the latest for cleaning restrooms in high traffic facilities like the Reitz Union is the Fas-Trak 3D brush and mop system. This innovation can cut bathroom floor cleaning and drying time by up to twenty-five percent. The 3D brush and mop system pivots through bathrooms cleaning floors, grout, edges, corners and baseboards with one easy sweep. The durable, no scratch, angled bristles and thick absorbent double sided microfiber pad combine with a fillable fluid handle, making this system ergonomic and user friendly and makes agitation effortless. Because this bucket less system uses microfiber, dry time is also drastically reduced, getting cleaning crews in and out of the bathroom space and onto their next area in no time.
In addition, the power grip handle ergonomically fits the hand and the lightweight body prevents fatigue, while the oversized trigger offers easy fluid dispensing without hand cramps from squeezing over and over. Mark Feldmeier product expert at Fas-Trak says that products like the Fas-Trak 3D brush and mop system are intelligently designed for humans and offer green friendly solutions, minimizing the waste of chemicals and water and offering savings of time and labor.” When innovative cleaning solutions are available in places like colleges, hospitals, airports, shopping centers, sport arenas or any other settings with high use they can be a real time saver, says Feldmeier.
With the combo cleaning system, users can choose their own cleaning solution to fill the thirty-two ounce bottle but warm water gets the job done too, a sustainable solution that environmentally conscious cleaning crews and facility managers both appreciate. Philhower says he is motivated to use any type of green products for the benefits of their efficacy and nontoxic attributes, but above that he wants his employees to start to expect better, more sustainable options from every aspect of their lives. “The social benefit of using green products lets my staff be more knowledgeable about the products that are out there for their personal use too. If we do this at work, employees’ expectations shift about what clean looks like and smells like and we can all learn better ways to get there.”