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The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) proposed LEED v5 revisions “to provide greater flexibility for projects and more opportunity to evolve rating system requirements in response to a rapidly changing market.”

However, a cleaning industry association is concerned these revisions could eliminate requirements for cleaning management systems, training, and certifications. In a recent webinar, ISSA explained why these changes could interfere with the cleaning industry’s role in keeping people safe and healthy.

To learn more about how these proposed changes could impact the cleaning industry, Facility Executive spoke with Jonathan Adkins, ISSA Executive Vice President.

Facility Executive: How do these revisions threaten to adversely impact the cleaning industry’s role in keeping people safe and healthy?

Jonathan Adkins: We are deeply concerned that LEED v5 does not adequately recognize the importance of cleaning and green cleaning in particular. For over a decade, green cleaning has been a prerequisite for LEED certification, emphasizing the reduction of environmental impact while safeguarding human health. Green cleaning has become a pillar of the professional cleaning industry, aligning with our mission of cleaning for health. Recognizing and maintaining this standard is essential for promoting both environmental sustainability and public well-being.

The cleaning industry proved its essential role in keeping buildings healthy, safe, and green during and since the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the USGBC’s proposal diminishes its importance in the built environment.

FE: What are some of the major changes from the last version? Why do you think LEED v5 undervalues cleaning compared to other issues?

Adkins: Overall, we are concerned too few points are allocated to green cleaning programs, especially when compared to other program and building attributes. While three points may be appropriate during the initial construction of a facility, it undervalues the importance of cleaning once the building is occupied, and the daily importance of protecting occupant health and wellbeing. Furthermore, the social equity component of LEED v5 does not adequately address the specific needs and working conditions of cleaning personnel. It is imperative that these aspects are given greater consideration to truly reflect their significance in promoting a healthy built environment.

FE: How does the proposed LEED v5 impact facility managers and cleaning maintenance staff?

Adkins: The draft of LEED v5 has removed the Prerequisite for green cleaning, which has been in the rating system since 2009, thereby setting back the cleaning requirements by 15 years. Properly planning and management of the cleaning processes, including the use of environmentally friendly products and equipment, strategies to reduce energy and other resources, training and contingency planning for workers, and education on handwashing and other issues are essential to protecting the health and wellbeing of cleaning staff and facility occupants.

The professional cleaning industry is considered a high-risk profession, and green cleaning practices have significantly mitigated these risks and made cleaning workers safer. It is concerning that LEED v5 does not fully acknowledge or address the importance of these measures.

FE: What does ISSA think should be addressed in this new version? What are some of the cleaning industry’s needs and challenges that you think should be addressed?

Adkins: We believe that overall, the LEED v5 standard does not encourage innovation or anticipate improvements in the cleaning industry, such as the integration of robotics and demand-based cleaning and other emerging technologies over the expected five-year lifespan of the LEED rating program. LEED has historically been a forward-looking leadership standard. We encourage USGBC to update the Green Cleaning standard to continue in this tradition.

The social equity requirements in the prerequisite should be more effectively tailored to address the needs of cleaning teams. This includes ensuring fair wages, preventing gender discrimination, improving working conditions, implementing injury and illness prevention measures, providing opportunities for advancement and prevention of other illegal employment practices sometimes found in service industries.

Additionally, the social equity requirements should include safety provisions for cleaning personnel, addressing issues such as wages, production rates, hours, benefits, injury rates (including ergonomic injuries), tenure of frontline workers, worker insurance, immigration status. There should also be a focus on encouraging the hiring of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups, alongside traditional social equity concerns such as eliminating child or slave labor.

By encompassing these considerations, LEED v5 can more effectively promote a safe, equitable and innovative cleaning industry.

FE: Does ISSA have specific recommendations it would like to see implemented for achieving LEED green building goals without negatively impacting the cleaning industry?

Adkins: We recommend increasing the credits for green cleaning to 10 points. The additional points should incentivize a level of thorough cleaning that will reduce risks to occupant health while improving their productivity and well-being. Furthermore, it is important to restore the Prerequisite of Green Cleaning to ensure that the cleaning process is addressed properly and effectively. This would uphold the standards necessary to protect both the environment and human health, reflecting the fundamental importance of green cleaning practices and the overall sustainability of a building.

USGBC opened up LEED v5 for public comment and is accepting feedback until May 24. Learn how to submit a comment on these revisions here.

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