Understanding LEED Certification and Commercial Cleaning

Today, many companies are taking on sustainability and green initiatives to have a more positive impact on the environment and human health. The LEED certification program gives the framework for buildings to be more environmentally responsible and recognizes these achievements with different levels of certification. These designations are attractive to potential residents and tenants, as well as investors and the general public.

While LEED certification covers many different facets of a building’s construction, design and day-to-day operations, a huge part of it is the cleaning products and methods used in the building. Making sure that only non-toxic cleaning solutions are used contributes to a more positive environmental impact, as well as a much healthier environment inside the building. Choosing LEED-certified commercial cleaning companies helps a building achieve and maintain its LEED status and ensure better air quality and human health.

What Is LEED?

What is LEED


LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a globally recognized certification program that recognizes sustainability and environmental responsibility in building design, construction and operations. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) created this certification program to ensure consistent metrics that promote the most important elements of sustainable building design, including:

  • Energy conservation and savings
  • Water efficiency and conservation
  • Indoor air quality and overall indoor environment
  • Minimized carbon dioxide emissions

The LEED certification program is based on a points system, and points are awarded for each of these main categories, to give a building its total score. Based on this system, a building can then be listed as LEED-certified and go on to achieve higher levels of certification, designated by silver, gold and platinum levels. Recertification is necessary at certain intervals in order to maintain the LEED certification status.

This program gives builders, designers and building owners a framework to follow for measurable solutions in green design, and at all stages — from building design and construction to daily cleaning and maintenance. The program can be used for buildings of all types, too — whether residential, commercial or something else. Homes, businesses, healthcare facilities, schools, churches and even whole neighborhoods can benefit from the LEED certification program.

A LEED certification is an honorable designation that shows the building’s owners and designers care about the environment and are responsible stewards of the earth. It shows a commitment to leadership in green living and sets an example for other companies and communities to strive for.

What Is LEED-Compliant Green Cleaning?

LEED certification isn’t just for new construction — the ratings can also be used to certify existing buildings for renovations, as well as daily maintenance, cleaning procedures and general day-to-day operations. This type of certification is called LEED-EB, or LEED for Existing Buildings. The LEED-EB program involves all of the main aspects of regular day-to-day building operations like energy and water efficiency, recycling facilities or programs, indoor air quality, mechanical systems and maintenance methods, cleaning methods and uses of chemical agents and so much more.

Why Are LEED Certifications Important to Cleaning?

At first, the cleaning methods and supplies that a facility uses may not seem as important as other aspects of LEED certification, but they can have a huge impact on the overall environmental quality of the building, and in turn, the building’s LEED score.

Green and sustainable cleaning services ensure a safer indoor environment with non-toxic cleaning products and more efficient cleaning methods. A green cleaning certification means that the indoor environment of the facility is protected, and the environmental impact of the building and the health of the people who use the facility are also a priority.

LEED Cleaning Standards

professional cleaners disinfecting office desks


When seeking LEED certification for a facility, a LEED-certified green cleaning program will need to be implemented as part of an overall green maintenance plan for the building. A LEED green cleaning policy should include standards to follow for all of the following and more:

  • General-purpose cleaners: Any cleaning solutions or chemicals used in the building must meet strict environmental and safety standards to comply with LEED cleaning certification. Cleaning products need to be used in the proper dilutions and be the mildest possible solutions while still effectively doing their job. Cleaning solutions must be considered non-toxic in their undiluted form, as well as non-corrosive to skin and eyes, and should not contain any heavy metals or ingredients known to cause cancer, asthma or reproductive disruption. Green cleaning products should not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are disruptive to indoor air quality, and not leave behind harmful residues.
  • Floor and glass cleaners: Specialty cleaners should also adhere to the cleaning standards of LEED, ensuring that the chemicals used do not contribute to a degradation of the environment, air quality or water quality and aquatic life.
  • Vacuums: To comply with LEED standards, vacuum cleaners need to be certified with the Carpet and Rug Institute and their Green Label program. Vacuum cleaners also should not exceed 70 decibels of noise volume when operated.
  • Carpet extractors: Equipment used for deep cleaning of floors and carpets need to have a Seal of Approval from the Carpet and Rug Institute to ensure LEED compliance.
  • Paper products and trash bags: Trash liners or bags, and any paper janitorial products used, such as paper towels, should all meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. All of these products should be made from renewable or recycled resources and not contain virgin tree fibers.
  • Hand soaps and sanitizers: Any soaps and sanitizers provided in the building for hand washing should not contain anti-microbial agents, unless this is required by other health codes — such as in hospitals and nursing homes.
  • Hazardous cleanup plans: The building must have LEED-compliant procedures to follow for any chemical leaks, spills or other toxic cleanup situations. Plans should minimize any damage to human health and the environment.

Cleaning supplies that meet LEED standards are also often packaged in more environmentally friendly recycled bottles and packages, and should also be recyclable. Energy and water usage, as well as renewability of materials, are also considered in the manufacturing process for green cleaning products.

All of these smaller aspects add up to a greater environmental impact, and it’s easy to see how green cleaning benefits LEED scores overall. A LEED-compliant professional cleaning company will be knowledgeable about these green building certification cleaning requirements.

Why Do You Need a LEED-Compliant Cleaning Company in Order to Be LEED Certified?

Any facility seeking LEED-EB certification will need to make broad policy changes in all day-to-day operations, and the cleaning products and methods used are a huge part of this. In fact, LEED certification requirements include a green cleaning plan for the building.

Because the cleaning requirements of LEED are so specific and are an important, integrated part of the overall plan, it’s best to use a cleaning company that understands corporate cleaning and LEED standards. A knowledgeable green cleaning company will have the right cleaning products and services to keep you on track for LEED certification or maintaining your LEED status.

How to Know If a Cleaning Company Is LEED Compliant

When you choose a cleaning company for your building, they should be listed as a green cleaning company and be knowledgeable and experienced with more environmentally friendly cleaning practices. Some green cleaning companies train their staff on LEED compliance and only use LEED approved cleaning products. Shine Facility Services is proud to be a green commercial cleaning company committed to the environment and experienced in the green cleaning provisions of LEED.

How to Choose a LEED Commercial Cleaner

A commercial cleaning company that is committed to green cleaning and LEED standards can help you earn points towards a LEED certification for your building. You’ll want to know that the cleaning company you hire is aware of LEED standards and uses environmentally safe cleaning products. Look for cleaning companies that have their own third-party sustainability and environmental certifications, and trained staff members in green cleaning requirements for LEED.

The International Sanitary Supply Association, or ISSA, has their own certification program for green cleaning companies called the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and CIMS-Green Building (CIMS-GB). With this certification program, you can be sure that a cleaning company will deliver consistent results and will have a comprehensive green cleaning program that aligns with LEED cleaning requirements.

Benefits of LEED CertificationList of the benefits of LEED Certification

Obtaining LEED certification for your building offers many benefits for the building owner, with virtually no risks or downsides. LEED certification at any level demonstrates that a building is concerned for the health of the people who use it and the planet, too. Some of the benefits of LEED certification include:

1. Positive Environmental Impact

One of the biggest benefits — and the main point of LEED certification — is a reduced impact on the surrounding environment and planet as a whole. Pollution and waste are reduced, as well as the impact on natural resources. A LEED-certified building will have a much smaller carbon footprint than other similar buildings without LEED standards in place.

2. Healthier Inhabitants

Along with a healthier environmental impact comes a healthier environment inside the building, too. LEED requirements ensure the air quality inside the building is improved, with the use of HVAC filters and approved eco-friendly cleaning products.

With fewer allergens, bacteria and toxins in the interior environment, those who live or work in the building experience less environment-related health problems. A 2018 USGBC survey showed that employees want to work for value-driven companies, and those that work in LEED-certified spaces were healthier, happier and more productive.

3. Higher Productivity and Retention

A LEED designation is more attractive to tenants and employees, so whether the building is for apartments, office spaces or something else, you’ll have an easier time finding people, and keeping them happy in the space as long-term tenants or employees. Healthier inhabitants also means better performance and higher productivity for office workers, as well as greater job satisfaction, since increased air quality leads to fewer sick days. People want to live and work where they will be healthier and where the environment is a priority, and will be more likely to seek out LEED-certified locations.

4. Positive Public Image

The public will look more favorably on a LEED-certified project or company. Communities will be more welcoming to new construction projects that have LEED certification. Companies that prioritize environmentally friendly spaces can experience a boost to their brand image, leading to higher sales numbers, while at the same time looking more attractive to investors and other corporate initiatives. A LEED designation can set a company apart from their competition and be a powerful marketing tool.

5. Reduced Utility Costs

Beyond all of the amazing benefits for people, the environment and business, LEED certification will also save a company money in lowered utility costs. Buildings that are LEED certified are designed to greatly reduce their water and electricity use, which is not just great for the planet — it also saves huge amounts of money.

Plus, the cost savings are not just limited to water and energy — with a comprehensive recycling program, trash will also be reduced, saving the company money on waste removal services.

6. Higher Resale Value

Buildings designed with LEED certification in mind or those retro-fitted for LEED-EB can experience an increase in property value and greater interest if the building is on the market. Tenants are often more willing to pay higher rents in LEED-certified buildings, so profits can increase for the current owner as well.

7. Tax Benefits and Incentives

The LEED certification program comes with many available tax breaks to take advantage of, at both state and local levels, as well as other added incentives like discounts on permits or fast-tracked permits, among other benefits.

Professional LEED Cleaning From Shine Facility Services

Worker cleaning window


If your company is seeking LEED certification, you’ll want to hire a green commercial company that upholds cleaning industry management standards for green cleaning and LEED. Shine Facility Services understands your commitment to green practices and provides professional, top-quality cleaning services that comply with LEED standards.

As an eco-friendly commercial cleaning company with years of experience, we offer the best janitorial services in the San Francisco Bay area, using high-quality green cleaning products and staff trained in LEED practices. Shine only uses safe, non-toxic cleaning products that maintain the best indoor air quality and health of your employees or residents.

Contact Shine today to request a quote or get more information about our exceptional green cleaning and facility management services.

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