The Dollars and Details Behind Cleaning a Famous New York City High Rise

Building services expert gives the lowdown on One World Trade Center

November 18, 2021

Providing the full gambit of cleaning services to any commercial building is a large job. Now imagine you are organizing building services for One World Trade Center in New York City.

John Mongello, vice president of building services for The Durst Organization, which provides in-house services, provided a detailed account of the planning, budgeting, and time that goes into caring for the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, New York City. In Opening of One World Trade Center: Managing the Facility, in the Commercial Cleaning Track, Mongello explained how he had managed cleaning services in both the original twin World Trade Towers and now in the new building, a 104 story high rise opened in 2014.

One World Trade Center has 70 tenant-occupied floors, with each lease requiring different services. The top three floors contain an observation deck visited by 10,000 tourists daily, pre-pandemic. The building is LEED Gold certified.

The Durst Organization employs both light-duty cleaners (LDCs) and heavy-duty cleaners (HDCs) taking care of the commercial floors, the observation floors, and the public areas, including the lobby and fire command center. Tasks in the public areas include constantly wiping down surfaces of 25 turnstiles, 63 elevators, seven escalators, flamed granite flooring, and 52-feet-high marble floors.

“It takes a lot of planning because there are multiple finished to consider, such as terrazzo, granite, and marble,” Mongello said.

Three shifts of cleaning workers—daytime, evening, and overnight—service the building, with most deep cleaning done overnights as employees on the tenant-owned floors often don’t leave until late at night. The LDCs clean offices, collect trash, and vacuum while the HDCs maintain core restrooms and perform utility work as well as floor stripping and waxing. Durst employs 130 cleaners in the core building alone and 25 just in the observation floors.

The workers don’t just concentrate on the building interior. Durst is responsible for pressure washing exterior sidewalks and removing snow. Since workers are not allowed to dump snow in the street, Durst hires a company to pick up the snow and dump it in a field in Queens. “At the twin towers we could dump the snow in the Hudson River, but it is now a breeding ground for striped bass,” Mongello said.

Durst also monitors the loading dock which includes removing discarded delivery pallets and oil stains on the concrete.

Subcontracted tasks include window cleaning, metal and stone maintenance, extermination, rubbish removal, and management of a messenger center for delivery people on bikes.

The building follows strict sustainability practices and has a 4-can trash collecting system for office paper, glass/metal/plastics, cardboard, and garbage, along with bins for composing.

The hourly wage for Dunst employees is a minimum of $27.94, plus $13.33 an hour to the labor union for worker benefits. Adding payroll taxes and uniforms, the cost comes to $45.29 an hour for each cleaning employee, not counting the costs of cleaning chemicals and equipment. “That’s $1 million a month in payroll alone just to get workers out the door,” Mongello said. “At that cost I don’t want anyone to be wasting time, so we try to be as efficient as possible.”

As far as supplies, the building goes through 150 cases of toilet paper a month, spending $450,000 per year on paper products and the same amount on cleaning chemicals. “We’re spending $450,000 a year on paper products that get flushed down the toilet or thrown in the garbage,” Mongello said.

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