How Will LEED v4 Impact the Professional Cleaning Industry?

sustainablity, stephen ashkinPossibly one of the most significant changes instituted in v4 is facilities no longer earn a credit for having what LEED calls a “high-performance Green Cleaning” policy in place. So we are all on the same page, a high-performance Green Cleaning policy, as defined by the USGBC, is a policy intended “to reduce the exposure of building occupants and maintenance personnel to potentially hazardous chemical, biological and particulate contaminants, which adversely affect air quality, human health, building finishes, building systems and the environment.”

Instead of meeting this credit and earning a point towards certification in v3, having such a program in place is now a prerequisite in v4—that is, a “must-have.” Even if a facility should earn points and qualify for certification in every other area, without a high-performance Green Cleaning policy in place it will not be certified in v4.

However, LEED v4 offers an important new option. If the cleaning of the facility has been certified by Green Seal’s GS-42 program or ISSA’s CIMS-GB program, this will satisfy the prerequisite. This is because these programs meet the intent of the prerequisite as they address purchasing of environmentally preferable (Green) cleaning products, Green and sustainable cleaning practices, training of cleaning personnel, and other issues.

This option is helpful for both building owners/managers and contract cleaners. For owners and managers it simplifies the submission requirements and reduces a considerable amount of time meeting those requirements. For cleaning contractors that are GS-42 or CIMS-GB certified, a number of new doors of opportunity have just opened. Owners and managers can benefit from your help to get their properties LEED certified. (See sidebar: Benefits of LEED Certification)

Other Changes

In general, most of the updates and other changes in v4 are designed to take Green Cleaning to the next level. To do so, they have tightened many of the rules. For instance:

• Custodial Effectiveness: The v3 LEED guidelines allow the use the APPA Leadership in Educational Facilities Custodial Staffing Guidelines as a method to highlight the importance of effective cleaning. In v3, the facility must score 3 or less; in v4, that has been lowered to 2.5 or less (the lower the number, the higher level of cleaning). While a score of 2.5 is still pretty low, it is another step in the right direction.

• Cleaning Products: With v3, only 30 percent of the total cost for cleaning products including chemicals, janitorial paper and plastic can liners must meet the specific environmental standards to earn the credit. LEED v4 brings that up to 75 percent. This has significant impacts for buildings that were able to meet this credit by only purchasing toilet tissue and paper hand towels with recycled content.  Now all products will need to be addressed.

• Cleaning Equipment: With equipment such as vacuum cleaners, floor machines, scrubbers and extractors, v3 required only 20 percent of the equipment meet the requirements. In v4, this has increased to 40 percent, along with a “phase-out plan” allowing managers and cleaning contractors just one year to make this adjustment.

• Additional Compliance Paths: In v3, chemical cleaning products have to be certified by either EcoLogo, now known as UL Environment, or Green Seal; v4 adds the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice Program as an option as this program continues to improve its standard, verification system and other requirements. The USGBC felt that including more options, where appropriate, increases competition in the marketplace which typically results in lower prices of products due to increased availability, and improvements in the standards and services provided by the certifying body.
• Innovation: LEED v4 also encourages innovation. This means LEED will offer credits if a facility uses new technologies that, for instance, help reduce water consumption or waste management systems and help reduce the overall environmental impact of a facility. As to cleaning, an example of a new innovation would be the use of ‘engineered water’ or the use of devices that produce cleaning solutions on-site. As long as independent studies indicate these technologies have environmental benefits they are considered and encouraged.

Overall, all of these changes are made for the same reason and that is for facilities to have a more complete, comprehensive and effective Green Cleaning program in place to help protect occupant health as well as the environment.

Stephen Ashkin is Chief Executive Officer of The Sustainability Dashboard Tools, LLC.   The Sustainability Dashboard is an advance reporting system designed for business owners, managers, and property developers to measure and monitor energy, water, fuel consumption and other metrics and is specifically designed to reduce environmental impacts, save money, and create a culture of sustainability.  He may be reached at