It’s Here! LEED V4
If you have been receiving my monthly newsletter, DestinationGreen, you know that the US Green Building Council (USGBC) will be introducing LEED v4* in November of 2016. You also know that it includes a number of changes that will impact facility managers as well as building service contractors. I was directly involved with many of these updates, so what will be discussed here is am important tip, specifically for facility managers; changes impacting cleaning contractors as well as the professional cleaning industry; and the thoughts and reasons behind these changes.
Once v4 is in place, it will be up to building owners and managers to make sure the items presented here are executed. And as we will discuss later, it also states that contract cleaners hired to clean and maintain a facility are under management’s control as far as being aware of and fully trained in the Green Cleaning procedures and practices outlined in this new version. This tells us that the bond between contract cleaners and their clients is growing closer and stronger. It will require both parties – owners/managers and contract cleaners – to help ensure the facility meets the new LEED requirements.**
But before exploring all of these matters, the tip I have specifically for building owners and facility managers is that if you want your facilities to be LEED certified, do it now. Under the current version, v3 introduced in 2009, it is easier for facilities to be certified. Getting certified now is less costly as well. I pass this tip on to contract cleaners as well and encourage them to discuss the timing of LEED certification with their clients.
LEED V4 and the Big Change
Possibly 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 program 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 credits, having such a program in place is now a prerequisite—that is, a “must-have.” Even if a facility should qualify for certification in every other area, without a high-performance Green Cleaning policy in place it will not be certified.
However, LEED does offer an exception. If the cleaning contractors maintaining the facility have been certified by GreenSeal’s GS-42 program or ISSA’s CIMS-GB program, this will satisfy the prerequisite. This is because these programs are designed specifically to train cleaning workers on Green and sustainable cleaning practices and the proper use of environmentally preferable cleaning products.
This exception 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 need you to help LEED certify their properties.
(See sidebar: Benefits of LEED Certification)
In general, most of the updates and other changes in v4 are designed to take Green Cleaning and sustainability to the next level. To do so, they have tightened many of the rules. For instance:
The 2009 v3 LEED guidelines allow cleaning contractors to use the APPA Leadership in Educational Facilities Custodial Staffing Guidelines. 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 the ranking).
With v3, 30 percent of the cleaning products and equipment used by cleaning professionals must meet specific environmental standards to earn credits. LEED v4 brings that up to 75 percent; this includes not only cleaning solutions and equipment but also paper products and liners. A “phase-out plan” is included, allowing managers and cleaning contractors one year to make this adjustment.
In v3, products have to be certified by either Ecologo, now known as UL Environment, or GreenSeal; v4 adds the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice Program as an option.
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 that 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. 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 and comprehensive Green Cleaning and sustainability program in place to help protect health as well as the environment.
A LEED Disappointment
While I am very enthusiastic with most of the updates and changes introduced in v4, I must admit there is one disappointment. In my view, plastic liners used in facilities should be made of recycled content; be recyclable; and come in a variety of sizes so that just the right-sized bag is used, helping to reduce waste.
However, while other voices agreed with me about manufacturing bags in multiple sizes, some also claimed that recycled liners are less dependable and are more likely to tear. As a result, at this time, the use of plastic liners made from recycled content is not a part of v4. However, I trust new innovations and technologies will result in stronger recycled liners.
Although this is my disappointment, as indicated there are many good things in LEED v4 that I am enthusiastic about. One of them is that it further elevates our industry. We are now key players in helping building owners and managers earn LEED certification. Our entire industry is essentially a prerequisite for a facility to earn LEED certification and achieve its goal of protecting the health of building users and the environment.
Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, and the professional cleaning industry’s leading advocate for promoting sustainability. He is also CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report, and improve their sustainability efforts. He is the coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.
* LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized Green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community is built or operated using strategies aimed at improving performance that include energy savings, enhanced water efficiency, improved indoor air and overall environmental quality, and greater sensitivity to how building operations impact tenants and the environment.
** Many facilities do not try to become LEED certified but still follow the guidelines in the LEED program. Therefore, these changes and updates would apply to them as well.
Sidebar: Benefits of LEED Certification
For more than a decade, research studies and case studies have been published indicating the benefits of a facility being LEED certified or following LEED guidelines. While they may vary, in general these facilities benefit from higher rents; longer lasting tenants; higher quality tenants; and cost savings due to reductions in energy and water consumption.