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.

For some contractors, green cleaning is only about chemicals. While chemicals play an important part of any green program, a comprehensive and competitive program must also address the other materials used in the cleaning process.

Specifically, when thinking about floor machines and autoscrubbers, there are a number of things to keep in mind — foremost being the basic definition of “green.” Based on the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive’s Executive Order 13101, green is defined as those products that “reduce the health and environmental impacts compared to similar products and services used for the same purpose.” Additionally, it is also important to consider the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) Rating System because this is frequently how customers define their green requirements.

In LEED-EBOM under Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ), credit 3.7 addresses equipment. This information is not perfect and is continually being reviewed and updated, but it is often used by both customers and manufacturers to define green equipment and should be considered as a starting point for contractors considering this issue.

EQ Credit 3.7 defines the intent of green equipment “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, from powered cleaning equipment.”

Interestingly, the intent of this credit is primarily focused on protecting health,

including both cleaning personnel and building occupants. However, it is consistent with the overall intent of LEED to reduce environmental exposures, such as reducing water, energy and chemical consumption, as well as the use of more durable equipment which can result in huge environmental savings.

This LEED-EBOM credit can be particularly helpful when selecting floor machines and autoscrubbers, as it points out some specific requirements when comparing these green machines to their traditional counterparts.

Some of these additional requirements include:

  • Powered floor maintenance machines, including electric and battery-powered floor buffers and burnishers, are equipped with vacuums, guards and/or other devices for capturing fine particulates and operate with a sound level of less than 70 decibels.
  • Automated scrubbing machines are equipped with variable-speed feed pumps and on-board chemical metering to optimize the use of cleaning fluids or which use only water.
  • Battery-powered equipment uses environmentally preferable gel batteries.
  • Powered equipment is ergonomically designed to minimize vibration, noise and user fatigue.

These requirements can be very helpful in identifying green equipment as part of a comprehensive green cleaning program.