When comparing LEED 2009 to the new v4, one will notice that overall, green cleaning lost a point.

“The USGBC keeps trying to put the points on the areas with the biggest impact and if you look at the rating system, more than half of the points are for energy-efficiency and energy-use,” says Mike Arny, president and director of LEED services, Leonardo Academy, Madison, Wis. “So what’s happened from the beginning is a gradual migration of points within LEED toward energy-use reduction and, as a result, emissions reduction. With so many points focused on energy, that just means everything else has to fight for the remaining points.”

While the loss of a point is unfortunate, it’s more important to realize that green cleaning is still required. The prerequisite that was added in 2009 remains and mandates that in-house custodial departments or building service contractors have a green cleaning policy covering the use of green certified products and equipment, chemical storage and staffing contingency plans.

“LEED still highlights green cleaning and I would encourage people not to get wrapped up in the change in points,” says Arny. “From my point of view, once something is on the map with LEED, that really drives changed behavior in the marketplace. And I think whether there is one more or one less point, it won’t have much impact on that.”

Under LEED 2009, buildings earned one point by complying with IEQ Credit 3.1: Green Cleaning – High Performance Cleaning Program. Essentially, this credit was the formation of the green cleaning program that adhered to the required policy. With v4, this credit has been rolled into the prerequisite; cleaning personnel still have to carry out their green cleaning policy with their program, but they no longer receive a point for their actions.

In addition, the prerequisite has been expanded to cover additional chemical products. Green programs should now include less toxic laundry and warewashing chemicals. The prerequisite also stresses appropriate selection and use of disinfectants. This means following manufacturers’ usage instructions and adhering to dwell times, but it also implies the product should only be used when needed.

"The concern is that disinfectants are being used in areas and applications that are unnecessary and could have harmful health and environmental impacts,” says Ashkin. “To minimize the misuse or overuse of disinfectants, they should be applied correctly and appropriately, only when and where necessary, to protect human health.”

LEED v4 now offers a “shortcut” to meeting the prerequisite. A second option for cleaning providers is to earn a third-party certification, either Green Seal’s GS-42 or ISSA’s CIMS-GB. However, it’s important to note that the building going for LEED certification must have been audited by the third-party within the last 12 months.

“If the cleaning department already has certification, it definitely is a simpler process; all the paperwork and documentation has been done,” says Ashkin. “One of the things the USGBC is trying to do with LEED v4 is make it easier for buildings to be able to go through the process. That is one of the specific intentions of including things like CIMS-GB and GS-42.”

As previously mentioned, LEED v4’s intention is to protect water resources as well as reverse climate change. That’s why, despite whichever option cleaning providers choose to earn the prerequisite, their program should include strategies that conserve energy, water and chemicals. This could include day cleaning, cold-water carpet extraction, use of microfiber mops, or electrically activated water, says Ashkin.

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