In 2002, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released its rating system to help building owners and facility managers, along with their contractors and suppliers, operate their buildings using approaches that focused on protecting the health of occupants while also reducing negative impacts on the environment. Almost 20 years later, more than 125,000 buildings have been certified in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems. In fact, the use of the green cleaning credits go far beyond the LEED for Operations and Maintenance (LEED:O&M) rating system with 90% of all projects using the green cleaning requirements. Plus, for every building certified, it is estimated that two to three buildings use the green cleaning roadmap without being certified.
LEED transformed the professional cleaning industry. Its roadmap made it clear to both purchasers (building owners) and sellers (cleaning product manufacturers, distributors, and service providers) what constituted a comprehensive green cleaning program.
New credits for the COVID-19 era
In response to COVID-19, the USGBC has released its Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy strategy with four new LEED pilot credits to help building teams provide healthy spaces, and to assist with re-entry. The new pilot credits outline sustainable best practices that align with public health and industry guidelines such as those from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); and others related to cleaning and disinfecting, workplace re-occupancy, HVAC, and plumbing operations.
“We don’t have to choose between public health and a healthy economy,” says Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the USGBC. “The future will require both to thrive. Our priority now is to build people’s trust that their spaces are healthy and have a positive impact not only on them but the economy at large.”
One of the four pilot credits, Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space requires buildings to create a policy and implement procedures that follow green cleaning best practices supporting a healthy indoor environment and worker safety.
In addition to green product considerations and worker safety, the credit also requires effective procedures on cleaning and disinfecting, performance testing considerations, training for cleaning personnel to ensure that they understand how to perform the work, occupant education, and other services that are within the management team’s control.
LEED credits set up safety roadmap
Through the new LEED Safety First credit, the USGBC is once again providing a roadmap for the future as it addresses effective cleaning with an increased focus on our workers—workers who we know are truly essential.
In the end, COVID-19 will be addressed—the only question is how many lives will be saved and how the cleaning industry moves forward into
Cleaning product manufacturers, distributors, and service providers now have a roadmap to deliver to hundreds of thousands of buildings. And by meeting the requirements of this roadmap and truly caring for workers, we will be caring for our customers and contributing to a better and more sustainable cleaning industry.
RELATED: Read Stephen Ashkin’s May/June column COVID-19’s Impact on Sustainability.