LEED v4®: The Next Version of LEED

By Robert Kravitz, The Ashkin Group

The next version of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and with it LEED-EBOM (Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance) certification criteria, which together have been officially named LEED v4®, is expected to be voted on and adopted this summer. Proponents have widely heralded this version, which will replace LEED 2009, as raising the bar so that facilities are built and operated in a much Greener and more sustainable manner.

It cannot be denied that v4 has had its share of difficulties in becoming ratified, along with its share of detractors, when compared to past versions of LEED. However, according to Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group and the professional cleaning industry’s leading advocate for Green cleaning, there has been less controversy when it comes to the cleaning-related criteria in v4, Green cleaning strategies, and the use of environmentally preferable cleaning chemicals, tools, and equipment.

“This should come as a relief for many facility managers seeking LEED certification for their facilities because cleaning is such a key component of LEED,” says Ashkin, who has been directly involved in authoring the cleaning-related criteria and standards in v4. “Essentially, what we have done with v4 is to expand the overall intent of Green cleaning, which is to reduce the [negative] impacts of cleaning on people’s health, protect the environment, and further promote sustainability.”


LEED has set up standards to end confusion about what is and is not Green cleaning.

What can facility managers and cleaning professionals expect v4 to include in terms of cleaning requirements? Ashkin shares the following “heads up” for curious professional cleaners:

  • There is greater emphasis on using disinfectants and sanitizers “only when necessary.” As effective and helpful as these products are, they can also pose health risks for the user, building occupants, as well as the environment.
  • Greater emphasis on conserving energy and using water much more efficiently.
  • CIMS-GB (Cleaning Industry Management Standard-Green Buildings) and GS-42, Green Seal’s Standard for Commercial/Institutional Cleaning, have been added as options to meet the requirements of the Green cleaning prerequisite.
  • v4 requires that a greater percentage of cleaning and cleaningrelated products be Green certified. Seventy- five percent of all chemicals, paper products, and liners must now be certified—up from 30 percent. Additionally, 40 percent of equipment must be recognized as environmentally preferable— up from 20 percent.
  • Currently, EcoLogo™ and Green Seal® are the only certification bodies recognized for LEED certification; in v4, the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE), EcoForm™, as well as ISSA’s upcoming Transpare™ Program, will be included.

“Facility managers and cleaning professionals should note that, in some cases, previous cleaning-related requirements for credits were lost in v4,” says Ashkin. “However, managers and cleaning professionals are advised that, in most cases, these requirements were not really removed, but ‘rolled into’ another existing requirement.”

For instance, the installation of entry mats at building entrances, which was once a requirement on its own, will be rolled into the credit for Enhanced Indoor Air Quality strategies in v4. There are two other “roll-ins” Ashkin believes facility managers and cleaning professionals should be aware of:

  • Whereas having a Green Cleaning program allowed for a credit in LEED 2009, this has been eliminated and, instead, bolstered in many ways. This is because Green cleaning is now viewed as a prerequisite for LEED certification in v4.
  • Exterior cleaning requirements, which focused on exterior cleaning and landscaping products and equipment, have been eliminated, but are now included in the Sustainable sites prerequisite.

v4 & LEED’s Future 
LEED has set up standards—much the same way certification programs have done for such products as cleaning chemicals, paints, soap, and paper—to end confusion about what is and is not Green. This clarification has benefited both manufacturers and consumers of all types of environmentally preferable products.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), developers of LEED, has made a major contribution to helping builders construct and managers operate properties in a far healthier and more sustainable manner. It is estimated that more than 500 million square feet were LEED certified in 2011 alone and more than 2 billion square feet have been certified since the program was created more than a decade ago (the USGBC officially began the LEED certification program in 1998).

However, as beneficial as this program has already been to the building and management industries, indications are that LEED certification is evolving. According to recent studies of the building and construction industries, some facilities are being developed and operated in a Green and sustainable manner but do not seek LEED certification.

“However, managers and cleaning professionals should know that LEED will remain the de facto standard for defining a Green building and will continue to serve as the ‘roadmap’ for whether or not a building is ultimately certified,” adds Ashkin. “If all goes through as expected, the official launch of v4 will be at the USGBC Greenbuild Conference and Expo, which will be held in Philadelphia in November 2013.”