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 Colorado Building Green
USGBC’s New Safety First LEED Credits Address Health & Safety as Workplaces Reopen
by Charlie Woodruff
Charlie Woodruff, Regional Director, U.S. Green Building Council
 Over the past few months, we have all had to adapt to a new way of living and working, but as our communities begin
to open back up for business, USGBC recognizes that we need to remain cautious. Businesses must rebuild people’s trust and communicate the steps that are being taken in offices, retail, restaurants and other spaces to support health and safety. It also means that now is not the time to set sustainability commitments aside, but instead double down on sustainable solutions that contribute to our health and well-being.
There is a clear connection between environmental and public health, which is why LEED encourages green building strategies that also support health and well-being. In fact, two thirds of the credits in the rating system address this goal. The current pandemic, however, has put a spotlight
on the need to better support health while also rebuilding a struggling economy. To support that effort, USGBC released a new strategy, Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy. It is intended to leverage LEED to support buildings and communities in a post-pandemic world and as they work toward reopening.
As part of the strategy, USGBC outlined a series of actions it will take, the first of which is releasing new LEED guidance. The Safety First Pilot Credits were made available in early June to projects that have certified or are pursuing LEED certification. The guidance addresses four key areas: cleaning & disinfecting, occupant re-entry, water systems, and indoor environmental quality.
The Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space credit requires facilities to create a policy and implement procedures that follow green cleaning best practices that support a healthy indoor environment and worker safety. In addition to product considerations, the credit also requires procedures and training for cleaning personnel, occupant education and other services that are within the management team’s control.
The Safety First: Re-enter Your Workspace credit is a tool to assess and plan for re-entry into workspaces as well as measure progress once the space is occupied. It identifies
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sustainable requirements in building operations and human behavior that take precautions against the spread of COVID- 19. It aligns with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Re-occupancy Assessment Tool and requires transparent reporting and evaluation of decisions to encourage continuous improvement.
The Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning credit helps building teams reduce the risk of occupants being exposed to degraded water quality. Building and business closures over weeks or months reduce water usage, which can potentially lead to stagnant water or water that is unsafe to drink or use. The credit integrates recommendations from industry organizations and experts, including the U.S. EPA and the Centers for Disease Control. It requires buildings to develop and implement a water management plan, coordinate with local water and public health authorities, communicate water system activities and associated risks to building occupants, and take steps to address water quality in the community supply, as well as the building.
The Safety First: Managing Indoor Air Quality During COVID- 19 credit builds on existing indoor air quality requirements and credits in LEED. Building teams should ensure indoor air quality systems are operating as designed and determine temporary adjustments to ventilation that may minimize the spread of COVID-19 through the air. Additional considerations include increasing ventilation and air filtration and physical distancing of occupants and following measures outlined in public health and industry resources. The guidance also encourages monitoring and evaluating indoor air quality on an ongoing basis.
We are facing a time of unprecedented change, in which
all of us have to adapt to a new normal. We believe these LEED pilot credits are a good first step, but know that as more information becomes known about how the virus spreads adjustments will need to be made. USGBC is actively working with our community and asking for ongoing feedback through a new call for proposals to ensure LEED addresses the urgency of our health and green building issues today while still planning for tomorrow. |

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