While the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council regularly launches Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designations for new design and construction niches such as homes, retail, commercial interiors, and cores and shells, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the possibilities.

No matter what designation a client or potential client is going after, a building service contractor will always base its recommendations for services on LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) — the only LEED designation that’s all about operations and maintenance, rather than design and construction.

“Knowing LEED-EB is what you need to know in detail,” says Max Zahniser, the USGBC’s program manager for process and integration.

While much of LEED-EB focuses on a variety of facility issues, it contains all of the prerequisites and points that a BSC needs to know to help clients achieve the certification (see sidebar, pg. 26). LEED serves as an excellent opportunity for BSCs interested in retaining or adding accounts.

Zahniser says a green cleaning plan based on LEED-EB can also garner one Innovation point for all design and construction certifications including LEED-New Construction (NC), LEED for Schools, LEED-Commercial Interiors (CI) and LEED Core and Shell.

Diversified Maintenance Services President Dick Dotts partners with 10 different LEED clients, designing unique programs for each based on the client’s capabilities in-house. Dotts cites his most recent LEED-EB deal, attributing his company’s experience and proactive business sense to being able to get in on the ground floor.

“We approached them. We were aware of the building, and so we visited the site, and made initial contact. We are involved before it is occupied, and we’re an integral part of making decisions with things we have control over with the facility manager. Also they have a green coordinator, and we have been interfacing with both,” Dotts says.

The process for EB and NC are the same, he adds, but vary from building to building.

“We have our processes written up as a mold to work with, adjusting for the scripters of that building.”

OneSource Vice President of Marketing Services Angela Gustafson adds that as you build LEED knowledge and experience, you understand what gets credits.

“That’s what clients get excited about,” she says. “And it gets easier to tailor a program.”

LEED for New Construction
Although LEED-EB knowledge is the primary concern, it’s good to be familiar with the designations your clients are aiming for with their new buildings, as they’ll almost undoubtedly be rolling their certification into LEED-EB within the next several years.

“The way we look at the marketplace is, any facility that’s gotten certified is a prime candidate,” says Gustafson. “As they age from initial certification they [can then] roll into EB, and the weight of the credits explodes more than tenfold.

As the designation implies, these are leaders who want to work with professionals who are also the best at what they do.
Sustainable building is exploding, and many cities have passed legislation that mandates certain new buildings be built to green, if not to LEED, standards. According to Zahniser, LEED-NC’s version 2.2 is the newest.

“In short, we updated some of the referenced standards, like ASHRAE standards,” he says. “We fixed known problems with some credits — perhaps they were too hard to understand. One or two thresholds for credits have also changed.”

There are also credit interpretation rulings that are making life a whole lot easier for applicants to get LEED certified. This is great news, since if the process is easier to navigate more buildings will be becoming LEED certified, meaning more opportunities for business down the road.

“As far as I know, BSCs can help to earn one point toward LEED-NC certification,” says Zahniser, referring to the innovation credit.

“Rolling into EB isn’t a requirement,” explains Zahniser. “We encourage it with a registration fee waive for NC-certified buildings.”

LEED for Schools
LEED for Schools is a new design and construction certification for K-12 public schools, and much of what holds true for BSCs regarding the NC certification applies to LEED for Schools as well.

Gustafson notes that BSCs can help garner a second point for LEED for Schools applicants, through the Low Impact Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control credit.

Having debuted in April, LEED for Schools is based on LEED-NC 2.2, and informed by criteria from California High Performance Schools (CHPS) Criteria.

“We didn’t pilot schools, because it’s very close to NC, and basically very similar to the CHPS rating system/self certification program. Some of their technical experts were involved in LEED for Schools, and we felt the issues were already piloted,” Zahniser says. For more details, Zahniser points to the project checklist on the USGBC site, which includes the rating system and certification thresholds.

Dotts says his firm will be exhibiting at a green schools conference in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s moving fast,” he says. “Schools can be in-house or contract. They have a foot in both worlds.”

The world of green building is changing fast, meaning BSCs interested in being involved should do their best to get educated and stay educated about LEED.

Keeping current
In addition to the actual rating systems published online, the USGBC offers a LEED-EB Reference Guide that includes more technical guidance and support. Membership to the USGBC may be more affordable than perceived, as the dues payment is a sliding fee based on organization type and size. BSCs that are serious about being positioning as a consultant for working with LEED properties — and even get in on the ground floor as part of an integrated design and construction processs, like the USGBC encourages — it’s worth looking into.

Of 900 members, Zahniser says only three to four dozen are BSCs, and only a few of those are listed as Janitorial Services.

Gustafson says that for her, being a USGBC member has been critical in staying abreast of updates and new LEED certifications. Dotts says he stays current just reading all of the subscriptions and membership media he receives practically daily, which provides updates.

Becoming a LEED accredited professional, or LEED-AP, is another option to consider. Zahniser says service providers are achieving the designation, which is becoming a very valuable credential.

“There are different paths to accreditation. You can take an EB-, NC-, or CI-focused exam. The EB-focused exam should be more appropriate to a service contractor than an architect,” he adds.

“In any LEED certified project it’s a team journey, and when you’re part of your customer’s team you win as a team.” Gustafson says. “Customers really want to share that victory with you. It’s a fabulous way to start a very long-term relationship with a customer. Unfortunately BSCs can be bid out every year or two, and they often bid on price. But a customer with a BSC who helped them on that journey won’t forget that.”

In May, there were about 800 LEED-Certified buildings across the U.S. With a USGBC stated goal of more than 10,000 certified buildings by 2010, plenty of work is to come for BSCs hungry to get into the green building movement.

LEED-EB Point Checklist

To find out what you may be able to offer LEED-EB clients, print a free copy of the standards. Since capabilities vary, there is no definitive number of points a BSC can help clients earn, although 13 is typical, and some BSCs that are also involved in pest control, exteriors, and engineering report going as high as 17. Here’s the breakdown of the specific LEED-EB points a BSC can help capture:

Plan for Green Site and Building Exterior Management 1-2 Points
Sustainable Cleaning Products and Materials 1-3 Points
Recycling 1-3 Points
Entryway Systems 1 Point
Isolation of Janitorial Closets 1 Point
Low Environmental Impact Cleaning Policy 1 Point
Low Environmental Impact Pest Management Policy 2 Points
Low Environmental Impact Cleaning Equipment Policy 1 Point
Innovation in Upgrades, Operations and Maintenance 1-4 Points

A new version of EB is planned to launch in late 2007, replacing the current 2.0 with LEED-EB 2008, and details are forthcoming.


Lauren Summerstone is a Madison, Wis.-based freelance writer.