LEED v4: What Facility Managers and Cleaning Pros Should Know

On first viewing of LEED v4, it may seem that Green Cleaning, one of the mainstays of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has been demoted. In the 2009 and previous versions of LEED, facilities earned points for having a Green Cleaning program in place.

However, instead of being demoted, the use of certified Green cleaning products and Green Cleaning procedures, including policies on how these products and equipment are stored, has actually been elevated. Instead of earning credits for incorporating a Green Cleaning program into a facility, it is now a pre-requisite for LEED certification.

In addition, the prerequisite has actually been expanded to cover additional chemicals and products used in many facilities. For instance, Green programs include the use of more environmentally responsible laundry chemicals and, as we will discuss later, more careful use of disinfectants and sanitizers including such things as more closely following manufacturers use, instructions, dilution, dwell times, etc.

These are just a few of the many changes that facility managers and all segments of the professional cleaning industry will note in the new version of LEED. In fact, as it applies to cleaning in general, and Green Cleaning specifically, the intent of v4, as it is often referred to, is to expand the overall goal of Green Cleaning which is to reduce cleanings negative impacts on health, the users of cleaning products, the environment, and taking it one step further, to promote sustainability.

Heads up Updates

Other changes managers and cleaning pros should be aware of include the following:

A greater emphasis, or should we say de-emphasis on the use of sanitizers and disinfectants. These products should only be used on an as needed basis. The USGBC has realized something that many in the professional cleaning industry are well aware of. While disinfectants and sanitizers should definitely used in certain cleaning applications, they have a tendency to be used in areas and for applications where they are unnecessary. Because these products can have such a negative impact on human health, v4 is trying to minimize their application.

Using a GS-42 or CIMS-GB* certified cleaning service provider is now included in v4 as one way a facility can demonstrate compliance with the Green Cleaning prerequisite. Because these programs require the use of environmentally preferable cleaning products, hiring a certified cleaning service provider can make it easier for those facilities seeking LEED certification if for no other reason, much of the paperwork and documentation has already been completed.

Using water more efficiently is becoming a key concern for the USGBC. Because of this, v4 encourages managers and cleaning professionals to have strategies in place that conserve water. This could include, for instance, the use of microfiber that uses less water and chemical or recycling carpet extractors, which help reduce water consumption.

As to the purchase and selection of chemicals, paper products, and liners, managers can earn a credit with v4 if 75 percent of these purchases, based on costs, meet specific environmental or Green standards. This is a fairly big jump. LEED 2009 only required that 30 percent of purchases (based on cost) had to be environmentally preferable.

To make it easier to select Green certified products, v4 honors certification from more organizations such as the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE), program in addition to GreenSeal and UL/Environmental Choice, formerly known as EcoLogo.

Facilities can earn one credit for matting entry systems as long as they are at least 10 feet long, effective at removing soils and moisture from shoe bottoms, and are cleaning and maintained on a weekly basis.

Finally, as to cleaning equipment, v4 still requires that vacuums and carpet extractors be approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute and floor scrubbers have on-board chemical meters or use tap water for cleaning. Equipment should operate at 70 decibles or less. In addition, the use of certain types of batteries considered safer for the users and the environment, were expanded in v4. These include Gel batteries, AGM (absorbent glass mat) batteries, as well as lithium-ion batteries.

Lead or Guide

The goal of the LEED certification program has always been to promote and protect the health of building users and the environment. And v4 certainly continues in this direction. It is now estimated that more than 2 billion square feet have been certified since the program’s inception back in 1998.

However, in recent years we have noted a new direction being taken by many building owners, developers, and managers. Instead of seeking LEED certification, they are using the program as a guide. They still recognize LEED as the “de facto” standard with it comes to defining a Green facility – and implanting a Green Cleaning strategy – but instead of seeking the actual certification, they are instead using it as a roadmap.

As long as they stick closely to the roadmap, the ultimate goal of healthier and more sustainable facilities can still be realized.   LEED has made a huge contribution to the Green movement and specifically to Green Cleaning. The latest version of the program, helps solidify this contribution, serving as a true foundation of how a facility should be built, managed, and cleaned to protect health and the environment.