By Stephen Ashkin

Stephen Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a nationally renowned consulting firm helping both contractors and building owners “green” the cleaning process.

In this year’s revision of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) rating system a new credit was added to help LEED better fulfill its intent of creating healthy and high performing buildings.

One of the goals of the LEED-EBOM Core Committee was to find ways to help the new revision go beyond just the use of greener products. While it is an improvement to use greener chemicals, paper, equipment and other supplies, the mere use of greener products does not necessarily equate to a cleaner, healthier building. Thus, rather than just focusing on products, LEED-EBOM now offers a credit to systematically begin measuring cleaning performance and to reward more effective cleaning.

After reviewing a number of excellent auditing tools, it was determined that it would be inappropriate for LEED-EBOM to adopt a proprietary system that had been developed by a private, for-profit company. Furthermore, it was necessary that the audit tool demonstrated acceptance in the marketplace. Interestingly, this was the reason that neither Green Seal’s Standard on Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services (GS-42) nor ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) were selected. And to be clear, these programs were both found to be excellent, but due to their recent development it was premature to specify them until the marketplace had adopted them.

Additional requirements included that the system had to be flexible enough to be used by a variety of building types and, finally, that the program or audit needed to be relatively inexpensive to conduct and allow for self-auditing to reduce cost and other barriers to its use.

As a result, the APPA Custodial Effectiveness Audit was chosen. Originally introduced in 1992 as part of its Custodial Staffing Guidelines, the tool had a proven track record. Because universities where APPA is primarily used contain office buildings, resident halls, classrooms, laboratories, athletic facilities, hospitals and more, it was concluded that their system could meet LEED-EBOM’s needs.

It is very important to point out that the LEED-EBOM Core Committee selected only the audit tool. To be clear, APPA’s Custodial Staffing Guidelines are typically used for staffing requirements as the title suggests. However, that is NOT what it is used for in LEED-EBOM, as LEED is more concerned about outcomes and performance rather than specifying a particular cleaning system or staffing level.

The value for contractors is that LEED-EBOM provides two potential points based on achieving various levels of performance. A single point is awarded for achieving a score of 3 or lower (the lower the better) and a second point for a score of 2 or lower. Not only will this audit help systematically collect data on cleaning performance, but creates an incentive for more cleaning. And while the audit is still subjective based on visual inspections, it is nonetheless an important step forward for our entire industry and will be refined in future revisions of LEED.