Green Cleaning | Georgia Tech and The Living Building

Georgia Tech is no stranger to being a leader. From academics to research, making strides and raising the standard is something that Georgia Tech does—we create the next. An area where Georgia Tech has been “creating the next” for years is in our green cleaning practices. Led by the Facilities Management Building Services Associate Director Tommy Little, the Green Cleaning program is innovative and an amazing asset. Both private and public organizations visit Georgia Tech to learn more about our program and how to implement it in their locations. As the name suggests, a green cleaning program would seemingly have a natural fit into the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design.

Servicing The Kendeda Building

As a Living Building Challenge certified facility, The Kendeda Building must be maintained in such a way that it does not harm the environment while also maintaining top standards – including cleanliness. Items of consideration include the cleaning products that are used, the cleaning materials that are used (paper towels, toilet tissue, trashcan liners, etc.), and the equipment that is utilized. The Building Services team quickly rose to the challenge of servicing The Kendeda Building. The Georgia Tech Green Cleaning program was a natural fit for this building.

A New Way to Clean

Often when one considers “clean” you think of all germs and pathogens being removed usually at the expense of using of harsh chemicals. These harsh chemicals are just that—harsh. Their use can be detrimental to the staff who use them, to the building user who interact with them, and to the environment.

The philosophy adopted by Georgia Tech Building Services is to clean for the health of the person. This means considering how the substances used impacts everyone. The green cleaning program Georgia Tech Building Services began developing in 2003 cleans in an entirely different way, without the use of harsh chemicals. The latest step in the ongoing program evolution was having the program independently certified by GreenSeal, an internationally recognized third-party certification that verifies every step in the cleaning process to assure the protection of human and environmental health, on-going inspections, waste reduction and more.

The Building Services’ green cleaning program utilizes ionized (or charged) water in combination with different minerals, including salt, to clean surfaces. When the ionized water is mixed with minerals it is doubly tested by staff to ensure it is the proper pH for cleaning. This system is able to clean to a standard and level that far exceeds the use of traditional cleaners such as bleach or degreasers. The results are outstanding—for example, the sanitizer is 80-200 times stronger than bleach with none of the harmful side effects. Additionally, all paper-towels are 100 percent post-recycled content.

Cleaning The Kendeda Building

Every substance, ranging from the building materials to the cleaning solutions, that goes into The Kendeda Building has to be carefully sourced. As part of the certification process, Georgia Tech submitted a list to the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) of all the substances employed in our buildings. ILFI reviewed all of the substances to look for those that would not be suitable to go into the building. The ILFI report found that many of the substances already utilized by Building Services are a natural fit and do not pose any concerns. Despite the overwhelmingly positive findings about the Green Cleaning system, there remained a few challenges for the team. Since everything has to be vetted that comes into the building, the team is in the search for trashcan liners and hand-soaps that will align with the standards shared by the building. They also have to consider the energy usage of the cleaning solutions system, and possibly initiating different training requirements.

Cleaning at Home

As with many techniques being explored with the Living Building Challenge, this special way of cleaning can be incorporated into our own homes. We are all invited to review the “red list” products identified by ILFI to see if anything we bring into our home presents an area for concern. Research will reveal alternatives and different products that we can be substituted to lessen the impact on our health and environment. Additionally, we are invited to look into ionized water home cleaning systems. Small changes can make great impacts!

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