6 Changes in LEED and the Future of Green Cleaning

USGBC members will vote on the these changes to LEED cleaning credits


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is revising its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System. Since 2002, the cleaning credits in LEED have served as the roadmap to a comprehensive green cleaning program and the new revisions will continue to strengthen green building practices in the United States. 

Later this year, USGBC members will vote on the  following six changes to LEED cleaning credits: 

Increasing the points (and value) of cleaning. The COVID-19 pandemic taught that cleaning is an essential mitigation strategy to protect building occupant health and the LEED technical team responded by increasing the number of possible green cleaning points from one to three. More points for greener products and services will result in more demand because the focus remains on effective products and services that further reduce negative impacts on both human health and the environment.

Using technology to measure cleaning performance. The LEED Technical Committee developed a new protocol for routine measuring of surface contamination that provides objective, quantitative, reliable, repeatable, and reportable results. The protocol will require verification that facilities have tested high-risk/high-use spaces and the high-touch surfaces within those spaces. The protocol also will objectively identify cleaning performance and suggest corrective actions
as warranted.

Defining green disinfectants. Clearly, disinfectants are important. All U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants have been proven efficacious against specified pathogens. However, for a disinfectant to meet the new LEED requirements, it will have to be formulated with active ingredients identified by EPA’s Design for the Environment Logo for Antimicrobial Pesticide Products (e.g., hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, L-lactic acid, ethanol, isopropanol, and peroxyacetic acid).

Implementing ultraviolet C (UV-C) disinfecting devices. UV-C devices are among some of the most exciting innovations taking place in the cleaning industry. Not only are they effective and increasingly being used in hospitals, but they also have the ability to eliminate or at least minimize some of the health and environmental concerns associated with the use of current chemical disinfectants. LEED is creating an option for these UV-C devices, which in turn could stimulate further innovations, especially in smaller handheld devices for disinfecting surfaces, such as electronics that could be damaged by water-based disinfectants.

Considering green materials beyond recycled content. While encouraging the use of recycled materials to reduce environmental impacts, LEED revisions will include additional options and clarifications to create opportunities for innovation. For instance, they will detail an option for plastic can liners that include 30% resin (by weight) made of inorganic minerals, and options for paper that include agricultural waste and rapidly renewable fibers.

Earning green building accreditation through GBAC STARTM. LEED is expanding the options to meet its Green Cleaning Prerequisite through programs such as the GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a Division of ISSA. GBAC added new requirements to the accreditation to align its requirements for cleaning products and equipment with LEED. 

Stephen P. Ashkin

President, The Ashkin Group

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected].

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