The quest for “greener” or more sustainable commercial buildings continues to grow at a rapid pace.
Since Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification was first developed in 2000, over 40,000 commercial or industrial projects have been certified or are in the process of being certified.
These projects represent almost eight billion square feet of construction space in 117 countries, including the U.S.
In fact, according to the third annual Green Building Market and Impact Report, the most recent data indicates that while the rate of growth for LEED-certified projects has slowed to a 14 percent increase in 2010, this still represented an additional 1 billion square feet of green building space being added.
One reason for this build-out in green commercial space, according to a recently released report by the consulting firm Ernst & Young, is that shareholders of public and private companies are putting pressure on their boards of directors to improve their performance linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Today''s shareholders expect organizations to meet standards of social, economic and environmental performance in all areas of its operations, including facility maintenance.
Clearly, one of the best ways to address these growing demands for improved interior space is to educate building owners and managers to the benefits of sustainable building practices in general, and green cleaning in particular.
With people spending as much as 90 percent of their time inside buildings, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is garnering significant attention of business owners and property managers.
Recent studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate that air pollution levels can be up to five times higher than those found outdoors.
Methods of improving IEQ and improving janitorial staff safety requires building service contractors (BSCs) spending time to learn what is new and then communicating those benefits to the building owners.
“The concept of green cleaning really started about 15 years ago,” says Jim DeGrado, president of Cardinal Building Maintenance Inc. in Alsip, Illinois. “But, it did not catch on until the last six to eight years. Now, we are in full swing; all large companies expect us to have a green program, and most medium-sized companies know about green and are interested in learning more.”
Cardinal has partnered with a chemical manufacturer to provide a comprehensive program that includes microfiber, chemicals certified by Green Seal Inc. and specific processes to use it correctly.
“After we demonstrate to the prospect how the program works, they usually sign on. We even include an indoor air quality (IAQ) survey every year to validate the program,” continued DeGrado.
There are other ways to improve IEQ, and taking an increasingly larger role in educating building owners and managers are BSCs.
“We are constantly checking in with our network of BSCs and vendor partners, as well as organizations like the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA),” says Albert “Jay” Kraft, Richmond, Virginia, City Manager for Liberty Property Trust.
With over one million square feet of space under management, Kraft counts on his vendor partners to bring new ideas to him and his team on how he can keep his building safer and cleaner.
“Liberty Property believes in sustainable building initiatives, and we align ourselves with building service contractors that feel the same way we do. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our performance. In turn, we communicate with our clients on a regular basis, keeping them informed as to our environmental progress.”
Jim Paterno, founder and president of Stockton Real Estate Advisors, concurs: “The cleanliness of our interior spaces is critical to our success. Many people practically live in our building, and their health and safety is of paramount importance to us. Our customers are very interested in knowing what we are doing to reduce our carbon footprint and how sensitive we are to the environment.”
The Simplicity Of Progress
Improving worker safety and IEQ is not as hard or as costly as many people believe.
Several years ago, people thought “green” was synonymous with ineffective and expensive.
No more, though, according to Bob Polo, vice president of operations for ARAMARK''s Business and Industry Group.
“Technology has advanced rapidly,” says Polo. “We can eliminate potential building contaminates in several ways, including the implementation of our environmentally friendly ‘blue cleaning'' program. By leveraging the power of electrically-activated water (EAW) in place of chemicals, we can help our custodial clients minimize their environmental footprint and increase safety, productivity and convenience while cleaning more effectively.”
BSCs can help building owners by alerting them to new product options like EAW, in addition to recommending more traditional building maintenance solutions, such as: Using properly sized entryway matting systems; utilizing lightweight, adjustable microfiber floor care tools and accessories; switching out older, heavy single-motor upright vacuums for lightweight backpack vacuums equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration; and more simple ways to protect worker health and productivity while improving cleanliness.
The majority of businesses today want a cleaner environment — and they want to a way to quantify it.
“APPA standards have helped building owners and contractors by creating definable levels of cleanliness that we can agree on and achieve,” continues Polo. “Using APPA standards as a framework, we can then discuss how we will achieve that mutually agreed to level of cleanliness. Being Cleaning Industry Management Standard-Green Building (CIMS-GB) certified also helps assure customers that we can deliver the results that we say we can.” Clearly, technology has advanced productivity and lowered costs while simultaneously improving the environmental profile of many cleaning tasks and processes.
Getting the word out to building owners and property managers is critical to improving the environmental profile of the built environment.
Only time will tell how fast these new methods become the new standard and are implemented into the day-to-day operations of today''s buildings.
Peter Henson, Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR), ISSA Certification Expert (ICE) and Certified Sustainable Building Advisor (CSBA), is the president and owner of The Henson Sales Group Ltd., a manufacturers'' representative agency serving the Mid-Atlantic Region. Additionally, Henson is a consultant offering expertise in areas including ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) for BSCs and market access development strategies for manufacturers seeking to access the industrial and institutional channel of distribution. Henson is the co-founder of GreenNet Solutions, a collective of sustainable building service providers serving the Mid-Atlantic region.