The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is in the process of revising its LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) rating system with the goal of releasing the new version (called v4) in 2013. Since many building owners use LEED-EBOM for specifying the cleaning products and services used in their buildings, these changes will impact your existing green cleaning programs through 2015.

As the USGBC’s “subject matter expert” on cleaning, The Ashkin Group worked during this revision period with USGBC staff and technical committees on a number of broad issues. We wanted to ensure that the advancements made in the cleaning industry since the 2009 version were recognized. We also expanded the overall intent of green cleaning to reduce negative impacts on people’s health and the overall environmental impacts of buildings. Finally, we wanted to make it easier for BSCs to comply with the certification. 

The rating system is set to go into a fifth comment period, but I feel the cleaning credits aren’t up for debate. BSCs can get a headstart on adjusting their cleaning programs by taking a look at some of the proposed changes to the green cleaning credits. These include: 

  • Strategies to Reduce Environmental Impacts: New requirements were added to the prerequisite to cover additional elements of cleaning programs, including using disinfectants and sanitizers only when necessary, and developing goals for conserving energy and water throughout the building. 
  • CIMS-GB and GS-42: ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard for Green Buildings (CIMS-GB) and Green Seal’s Standard for Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services (GS-42) were added as options to meet the requirements of the cleaning prerequisite. For contractors already using these standards, it is easier to meet this requirement. Just be aware that the actual building going for certification must be audited.
  • Product Purchases: The credit available for purchasing green chemicals, paper and liners now requires that 75 percent of products (up from 30 percent) be green certified. In addition, 40 percent of equipment (up from 20 percent) must be considered green. 
  • Product Certifications: Currently, only products that meet Green Seal’s or EcoLogo’s standards are accepted. In the new version, EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) and the Transpare Program from ISSA and EcoForm have been included. 
In LEED v4, however, the cleaning industry also lost credits, which you will need to be aware of when updating your program. Just keep in mind that in most cases the previous requirements were not removed, but rolled into another existing credit. For example:
  • Green Cleaning Policy: This policy credit was deleted and rolled into the cleaning prerequisite, which makes it a requirement.
  • Entry Mats: This credit was rolled into the credit for Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies.
  • Exterior Cleaning Requirements: This credit, which covered exterior cleaning and landscaping products and equipment, was rolled into the Sustainable Sites prerequisite.
  • Waste Stream Audit: This credit was rolled into the prerequisite in Materials & Resources for an 
Ongoing Consumption Policy.
All of these changes create opportunities to demonstrate expertise to your customers. While LEED v4 won’t go into effect until 2013, show clients that you are on top of the changes and explain how you can serve as their “expert on green cleaning.”