LEED v4 and the Beginnings of a Green Cleaning Culture

The U.S. Green Building Council will be releasing LEED V4 in November 2016.

This has been a long time coming. To get LEED v4 finalized and approved took more than three years, five rounds of public meetings, and a review process that involved thousands of comments from people all over the world.

It cannot be denied that v4 has had its share of difficulties in becoming ratified and may not be “perfect”—if there could ever be such a thing. But as the professional cleaning industry’s leading and longest advocate for the use of environmentally preferable cleaning products and someone who was directly involved in the development of LEED’s Green Cleaning requirements and components, overall I am pleased that v4 has finally been approved.

For one thing, instead of receiving credits for using Green Cleaning products, as was true with older versions of LEED standards, the latest version makes the use of these products a prerequisite for any facility seeking LEED certification. This will have a significant impact on helping to reduce cleaning’s impact on the health of cleaning workers, building users, and the environment.

Further, v4 requires that facilities increase their purchases of Green Cleaning chemicals, paper products, plastic liners, and similar items from the current 30 percent to 75 percent. It also doubles the required purchases of Green Cleaning equipment, such as high-air-filtration vacuum cleaners, from 20 percent to 40 percent.

Version 4 also adds new compliance options that will give cleaning product manufacturers, janitorial service providers, and facility managers more flexibility and options, for instance:

  • With the older LEED rating system, UL/Environment and Green Seal® were the only certification bodies recognized for LEED certification; in v4, the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE), EcoForm, and the Transpare Program of the ISSA (the worldwide cleaning association) are included.
  • 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.
  • The new version encourages the development and use of technologies that clean effectively using just water and without the need for cleaning chemicals.
  • There is greater emphasis on conserving energy and using water more efficiently, putting a great deal of the responsibility for attaining these savings on cleaning personnel. This helps elevate their roles in the facilities they clean and maintain.

In years to come, v4 should have a significant impact on the professional cleaning industry and specifically Green Cleaning. For one thing, increased use of Green Cleaning products should help reduce their cost. With costs and performance comparable, there will be little or no reason to continue selecting conventional, non-Green cleaning products.

In addition, v4 will reward manufacturers of janitorial products who invest in new Green Cleaning technologies and facilitate more thorough and effective training of cleaning workers as their role in making facilities Greener and more sustainable becomes increasingly important.

In addition, v4 should help make Green Cleaning a “culture.” At one time cleaning workers and facility managers had to be enticed to select Green Cleaning products. Using conventional cleaning products and processes was viewed as standard operating procedure.

Now with the help of v4, a Green Cleaning culture is becoming established; environmentally preferable cleaning products will be selected first, and conventional cleaning products will be chosen only if (and in the rare case) a Green product does not exist or is cost-prohibitive or a poor performer. In other words, Green Cleaning products and strategies will now be viewed as the norm in facilities.


Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report and improve their sustainability efforts. He is also coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies