Now That It’s Built Green, How Is It Maintained?

The green movement continues to grow stronger and stronger every year. There’s no question about that. With more accessible information, better training and a greater overall understanding of what it means to be green, facility managers across the country are embracing green as mainstream.

Along with the push towards green, the quest for certification has exploded as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announces new LEED-certified facilities daily. And although achieving certification is nothing to sneeze at — it requires countless hours, dollars and energy from executives throughout an organization — I constantly find myself asking, what’s next? Now that you have achieved certification, how are you going to maintain it? What are you doing to make sure the green measures you implemented are actually going to work? Are you going to give as much attention to the maintenance of green that you did to its inception?

I have asked these questions to the USGBC and facility managers alike, and am often met with a dead stare. But in reality, certification doesn’t stop with a certificate or plaque. And it appears as though I am not the only one who thinks that the only way to truly be green is to practice it year-round and with constant attention and diligence. A recent New York Times article also drew attention the fact that some facilities are in fact not living up to their green label, sparking the USGBC to respond.

According to the article, “Builders covet LEED certification as a way to gain tax credits, attract tenants, charge premium rents and project an image of environmental responsibility. But the gap between design and construction, which LEED certifies, and how some buildings actually perform led the program to announce that it would begin collecting information about energy use from all the buildings it certifies.”

The USGBC is asking facility executives to submit this information voluntarily, but beginning this year, will also require all newly constructed buildings to provide energy and water bills for the first five years of operation as an added condition for certification. Not providing the data would result in a loss of certification labels.

Addressing the long-term energy and water requirements for green facilities is a good start, but managers must also pay the same attention to cleaning, maintenance and overall efficiencies in their green-certified facilities. Green is not a one-time change, it's an ongoing effort.

  • Agreed.

    To go a step further: if a "green" building is not only environmentally friendly, but friendly to the health of its occupants, might you want to look at cleaning procedures?

    Once the major initial off-gassing from building materials and furnishings (green or not) has occurred, the most significant ongoing impact the building environment will have on its occupants will involve Indoor Air Quality.  One can address air circulation issues (oxygen supply, carbon-dioxyde removal) with proper A/C design.  You can only remove respirable particles (allergins, for instance) with appropriate cleaning - HEPA vacuum filters, vacuuming rather than dust mopping hard floors, wiping rather than feather dusting, microfiber technology, and so forth.

    Obviously, appropriate entry mats and Green Seal chemicals need to be part of the program as well.

    Part of our program also involves monitoring IAQ periodically with a hand-held airborne particle counter, to verify (and quantify) what we're doing.

    See my blog  - cbnclean.typepad.com/blog - for a bit more commentary on the above.

  • The concerns presented are quite valid. "Green" building materials unfortunately are not always the easiest to maintain.

    Flooring for example is one area. There is a lot of linoleum being installed in "green" buildings, but linoleum presents numerous challenges in terms of maintenance.

    When it comes to maintaining buildings whether they are "green" or not, the practice of stripping and waxing floors is one that should be looked at with great concern.

    Conventional floor care products and methods require routine maintenance. With any routine maintenance, there is waste involved. With hard-surface floor care, waste is often extreme. For every gallon of stripper chemical used, as much as 20 gallons of water is used for dillution and rinsing. Conventional finishes must be scrubbed and recoated frequently causing more water to be used and dumped down the drain. And how about the amount of energy and number of pads required to buff and burnish floors to maintain the shine.

    On average, every 50,000 square feet of hard-surface flooring in the country utilizes more than 1,100 pounds of chemical product, of which 15-18 percent is considered hazardous material. When it is all stripped every year, it gets poured down the drains.

    By utlizing ultra-durable floor coatings, facilities across the country are finding their waste reduction to be quite significant. They are noticing improvements in indoor air quality and labor cost savings as well while giving up nothing in terms of appearance.