Feature Article - April 2012
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Maintenance & Operations

Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Follow LEED Practices to Green Your Cleaning

By Tammy York


Choosing the Right Chemicals

"To begin the process of switching over, a custodial manager should create an inventory of the products they are currently using and cross check it against the list of green products," said Hesse. "Focus on chemicals that are certified by a third-party nonprofit group such as Green Seal."

Since 1989, Green Seal, a nonprofit organization, has used science-based programs to empower customers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world. Green Seal developed lifecycle-based sustainability standards for products, services and companies and offers third-party certification for those that meet the criteria in the standard.

"You have to have a green policy program," Luna said. "Green Seal certifies the chemicals and GreenGuard certifies the process."

The GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI) was founded in 2001 with the mission of improving human health and quality of life by enhancing indoor air quality and reducing people's exposure to chemicals and other pollutants. In keeping with that mission, GEI certifies products and materials for low chemical emissions and provides a free resource for choosing healthier products and materials for indoor environments.

Green Seal certified products aren't necessarily more expensive than traditional products. One example is hand soaps. For example, if you switch from gel hand soap to foaming hand cleansers, the foaming cleansers last longer and also cost less. "You can save 25 percent just by switching to a greener soap," Hesse said.

Filtering the Air

A proper filtration system plays a big role in cleaning the air. Unfortunately, increasing the effectiveness of the filtration is not as easy as simply switching out filters. It is important that the mechanical system is balanced. If you increase the effectiveness of the filtration, the fan is going to have to work harder to push the air through the system. If you are increasing the effectiveness of the filtration system, it is important to commission a certified HVAC to properly adjust the mechanical system as well as the right mix of outdoor and indoor air.

"The mechanical system will need to be balanced to provide the right amount of air flow, making sure that the air is supplied to all the building spaces," Hesse said. "If the dampers are closed in various areas, it will affect how much fresh air is brought in and mixed with the building air."

Green Cleaning in Action

Located in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Dan Beard Council Scout Achievement Center (SAC) is a 27,000-square-foot structure that received LEED Silver Certification in 2009. Although this is a new building, it uses several green cleaning methods that can be incorporated into existing buildings.

"Our objective is to keep the building looking as it did the day it opened for as long as we can," said Mike Swofford, director of program support services for the Dan Beard Council Scout Achievement Center. "We use that as a guideline for keeping everything looking brand-new and sparkling clean."

This begins at the vestibule where most of the dirt is brought into the building. Special mats in the vestibule allow for the dirt and debris to drop down into a collection tray beneath the flow of traffic. The particulates remain in the collection pan rather than being brought into the indoor environment and getting into the air system.

"It is a regular practice to clean out the trays once a week. In wet weather or snow, people's shoes are still wet and tracking in dirt. So we added additional mats to help clean off the shoes," Swofford said. "A cleaning company comes once a week to collect the mats and replace them with clean ones."

Entryway system that incorporates grills, grates and mats helps reduce the amount of dirt, dust, pollen and other particulates entering the building through public entryways. To help eliminate some of the debris, keep the front entryways leading up to the building clean and clear. One way of doing this is to objectively review the plants near the entryway. Avoid trees and shrubs with flowers, fruits, seeds or leaves that are likely to fall or be blown into the walkway and then tracked into the building.