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LEED Version 4….Its Here

If you have been receiving my monthly newsletter, DestinationGreen, you know that the US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED* 2009 (version 3) will be replaced by LEED v4 on October 31, 2016.  This mean’s V4 is now in operation.

This will result in all new LEED projects being registered under LEED v4. And it comes at an important time as LEED faces new competition with the introduction of BREEAM-USA’s new “in-use” rating system and the International Well Building Institute’s new standard focused on improving occupant health.

You also know that this new version of LEED includes a number of changes that will impact facility managers as well as building serviceleed V4 contractors and janitorial product distributors. I was directly involved with these updates, so what will be discussed are the thoughts and reasons behind these changes; and some helpful implementation tips.

With 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 also 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 should be growing closer and stronger. It will require both parties – owners/managers and contract cleaners along with the janitorial product distributors – to help ensure the facility meets the new LEED requirements.**

Under the current version 3, it is easier and less expensive for facilities to be certified as compared to the new version 4. For example, minimal energy requirements have increased significantly from v3 to v4.*** This means that buildings needing energy upgrades and improvements to meet the minimum of this prerequisite will have to go the extra mile (and cost) to meet the increased requirement.
I encourage contract cleaners and product distributors to discuss the timing of LEED registration with your clients. While the facility can still use the additional compliance options found in v4, registering now under v3 will give them extra flexibility and can save them a lot of money – opportunities they may not be aware of.

The Big Change for Green Cleaning

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 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 LEED V4

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.

A LEED V4 Disappointment

While I am very enthusiastic about 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 of the appropriate size and thickness, and contain post-consumer recycled plastic resin (PCR). This meets the needs of building occupants with the most efficient use of materials, minimizing cost and environmental impacts while rewarding those manufactures which have upgraded their equipment to make high quality bags using PCR.

However, while many voices agreed with me about the use of post-consumer recycled content in all plastic can liners, some claimed that liners with recycled content are less dependable and are more likely to tear. As a result, v4 allows thin bags typically used in large numbers for deskside waste and recycling containers be exempt from using recycled resin. It remains my hope — and what I consider best practices to use thin bags with a minimum amount (at least 10 percent) of post-consumer recycled content for these deskside containers.

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 occupants 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.

***EPA’s ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager score increases from 69 to 75

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

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