The U.S. Green Building Council (USBGC) is updating its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating Systems, and recently released the changes for a second round of public comments. This release applies to all of the rating systems, including LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM), which contains all of the cleaning credits.

While the new version of LEED-EBOM is not scheduled to take effect until sometime in 2012, it is important for building service contractors who offer a green cleaning program based on LEED requirements to pay particular attention to the proposed changes. This will give you a head-start in making modifications to your program so you can hit the ground running when it goes into effect. Delaying to do so could put you at a disadvantage to your competitors who are quicker to make the changes.

In addition, for those contractors who serve as the “subject matter expert” on green cleaning to the customer, you should closely consider the changes because as the requirements contained in the cleaning prerequisite and credits change, your customers will expect you to keep them in compliance with the requirements. Failing to do so could cause your customers to question your expertise and open the door for a competitor.

What’s more, the changes being recommended in this comment period are significant.

Over the past decade, we have talked about the “value” of the cleaning credits to a LEED project team because depending on the scope of services being offered by a contractor, you could deliver up to 10 or so points. And for a LEED project team going for the basic level of certification, these 10 points could represent 25 percent of the total necessary for certification. That is an incredible value especially compared to the cost and complexity required to meet many of the other credits necessary for certification.

In the LEED-EBOM Rating System that is currently in place, green cleaning took an important step forward when the USGBC created a prerequisite that all LEED-EBOM projects had to do green cleaning; it was no longer optional. This move solidified the importance of green cleaning in the cleaning industry as it was no longer a temporary trend, but a requirement that would never go away.

However, in the new version out for public comment, the USGBC is eliminating two credits that were part of the green cleaning program: EQc3.1 High Performance Cleaning Program and EQc3.4 Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Control (the latter being essentially a credit for entryway matting). While these credits were actually rolled into other credits so the requirements don’t go away completely, understanding where they went and why, has specific implications for your program and leadership position.

Losing two points is particularly important for BSCs who provide only basic cleaning services, because the 10 points I discussed previously included add-on services such as integrated pest management, recycling and exterior building cleaning, which are not part of many contractors’ business. Thus, losing two out of the six points currently available for green cleaning is significant.

And there are other important changes that you need to be aware of such as the percentage of green chemicals, paper and liners necessary to achieve credit EQc3.3 is increasing from just 30 percent to 75 percent. This is a huge increase and will force some contractors to reconsider both products and processes.

LEED-EBOM is clearly changing and it can affect your green cleaning program and the needs of your customers. So stay tuned. And hopefully we will see you at this year’s ISSA/INTERCLEAN and BSCAI conventions in Las Vegas where we will be providing several updates on LEED.  

Stephen Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group and executive director of the Green Cleaning Network. He can be reached at