Green Cleaning: Comments Wanted

Changes to LEED-EB are coming, and the USGBC needs your feedback.

The U.S. Green Building Council is updating its LEED rating systems and soon will make the documents available for public comment. Although these changes won’t go into effect until 2012, now is the best opportunity to make recommendations that are appropriate for schools and universities. And because these changes will remain in effect until 2015, it is important that improvements are introduced now.

The draft changes to the cleaning credits in LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) are designed to update existing requirements and recognize that green cleaning has become accepted as a best practice—in nine states it is now the law for public schools and universities. Furthermore, based on the review of almost 6,000 LEED-EB projects, 85 to 95 percent of all projects were awarded points for the cleaning credits.

Some specific changes include a recommendation to increase the requirement for purchasing sustainable chemicals, paper and trashcan liners from 30 percent to 60 percent of total applicable purchases (EQ Credit 3.3). The requirement for sustainable janitorial equipment (EQ Credit 3.4) would increase from 20 percent to 75 percent of new purchases. These may seem like significant increases, but when schools and universities make a commitment to green cleaning, they find it easy to purchase all or a significant portion of these products as green. The higher percentages simply reflect this reality.

The new draft document also raises the bar on receiving the point awarded for conducting a custodial effectiveness audit (EQ Credit 3.2) from a minimum of 3.0 to 1.5 (the lower the score, the better). This issue is significant because it can serve as a tool to demonstrate the need for larger cleaning budgets and more custodial workers. Undoubtedly, this has direct financial implications and can help justify why it is important to provide increased funding for cleaning as departments fight over shrinking budgets.

Other changes in the draft include efforts to recognize new product certification programs (eco-labels). For example, the draft includes EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) and ISSA’s information-based environmental label (Clear Source) in addition to Green Seal and TerraChoice’s EcoLogo program as options for cleaning chemicals (EQ Credit 3.3). The additional options should expand competition among suppliers and bring costs down.

The draft also includes new options for the High-Performance Cleaning Program (EQ Credit 3.1) by adding Green Seal’s Standard on Cleaning Services (GS-42) and ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard for Green Buildings (CIMS-GB). These additional compliance paths should make achieving this point easier for those using these programs. Interestingly, new language in this credit also clarifies the opportunity to use "chemical-free" cleaning, in addition to simply using "greener" chemicals.

The draft also seeks to increase training requirements and includes other additions on which schools and universities may want to comment. The Green Cleaning Prerequisite (EQ Prerequisite 3) would for the first time include a strategy to reduce impacts from on-site laundry and warewashing programs. Another proposal seeks to require a purchasing strategy for product categories that have no existing third-party standards. This includes mop buckets, carts, floor pads and other tools.

Because the LEED rating systems help shape the marketplace, it is important to ensure that they are updated properly. USGBC members and non-members can submit comments, so please send yours in today! For information on how to submit a comment, visit the U.S. Green Building Council’s website at or

Ashkin is executive director of the Green Cleaning Network, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational organization. [email protected]

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