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Achieving sustainability in existing buildings

September 19, 2010
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As sustainability becomes a greater priority for the custodial community, facility managers continue to look for ways to achieve and maintain workspaces that are environmentally friendly.

Sustainability offers a long list of financial and social benefits for businesses; recent studies have shown that the costs of going and staying green are eclipsed by lowering standard operating costs in a relatively short period of time.

However, at the same time, many facility managers typically don''t consider the impact that something as simple as their choice of textile and carpet cleaning systems can have on achieving sustainable workplaces.

The U.S. Green Building Council''s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) is a standard that allows building managers to earn points towards certification by operating existing buildings in a more sustainable manner.

While facility managers will need to take a variety of other steps to achieve LEED-EB certification, using dry polymer-based systems for textile and carpet cleaning is one method that can make many contributions to LEED-EB points in a number of areas.

Water efficiency

LEED-EB certification requires that buildings maximize water efficiency in a manner that reduces the burden on water supply and wastewater systems.

Specifically, buildings seeking certification must provide documentation that demonstrates water use reduction per a baseline outlined in the Green Building Council''s October 2004 Green Building Rating System.

This includes: Monitoring and reporting water use data on a quarterly and annual basis and providing calculations detailing potable water usage per occupant and square foot.

Companies can achieve a total of five points in this category by meeting the prerequisites of water consumption and discharge water compliance, as well as earning points through water-efficient landscaping, innovative wastewater technologies, and water-use reduction.

Using a dry polymer-based cleaning system can assist in reducing a company''s water usage.

Assuming an optimal productivity rate of the cleaning equipment used, the average hot water extraction carpet cleaning system requires 50 gallons of water for every 10,000 square feet of carpet cleaned.

Since typical work environments can be even more thoroughly cleaned with dry polymer — as opposed to hot water systems — the greater the space, the greater the potential for water conservation.

Building operators will also need to incorporate many other practices such as using low-flush toilet systems, collecting rainwater, and using sensors rather than taps for sinks in restrooms, just to name a few.

Materials and resources

Up to 16 LEED-EB points can be earned in this category through methods such as reducing construction waste and using resources that are reused or recycled.

Facility managers that are already using dry polymer cleaning — either as the primary cleaning agent or as a follow-up to hot water for areas with heavy soil — are able to get a jumpstart in this area through the cost and environmental benefits of prolonging the good appearance and overall lifecycle of textiles and carpet.

Implementing a preventive maintenance program for textiles and carpet using the dry polymer system can extend the useful life of carpet and textiles, thus reducing the amount of materials that needs to go to landfills.

Employing other practices — such as using local materials to minimize transportation resources and costs, and using building materials and finishes with a high recycle-content — can play a significant role in helping buildings achieve points in this area.

Indoor air quality

Using low-emitting materials for textiles and carpet, walk-off mats at entry ways to trap soil before it enters the building, and low environmental impact equipment and policies are among the many ways facilities can earn up to two LEED-EB points in this category.

Most dry polymer systems are safe, low-emitting, and nontoxic.

They also go a step further in the cleaning process by not only removing the dirt, but by ridding the carpet of allergens, dead skin, dust mites, VOCs, bacteria and other barely visible but unwanted elements that exist in the average workplace''s carpet and textiles.

Moreover, dry-based systems can create a work environment that does not lend itself to the creation of mold and mildew.

Using the dry polymer method can enable facility managers to get the job done in cleaning their textiles and carpet, reap the benefits of contributing to LEED-EB certification, and create interior environments that result in happier occupants, more productive employees, and a healthier bottom line.

Stephen Lewis is technical director, MilliCare. MilliCare''s global network of more than 80 franchise partners consists of an integrated team of cleaning, manufacturing, retailing and other business professionals.

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