No one knows a building better than its janitorial staff.
Which is why U.S. Green Building Council Los Angeles
(USGBC-LA) has established the Green Janitor Education
Program, a training and certification program that empowers
custodians to become sustainability stewards. A collaboration
with Building Skills Partnership, the Service Employees
International Union United Service Workers West (
SEIU-USWW), and the Building Owners and Managers Association
of Greater Los Angeles (BOMA-GLA), the Spanish-language
program teaches the basics of sustainability, while training
individuals to spot leaks and report electronic equipment that
has been left on unnecessarily.
With more than 800 graduates across California, the
56 buildings that have enrolled in the program since it was
founded in 2014 have realized an average energy savings
of more than 5 percent as a result, and most of the buildings
have seen significant water savings as well.
But, as USGBC-LA Executive Director Dominique Hargreaves
explains, the program also includes a significant health and
wellness component by encouraging the use of toxin-free green
cleaning products. “Janitorial workers are sometimes afraid
to switch because of a long-held misconception that green
cleaning products don’t work as well. As a janitorial worker,
your job performance is gauged by how clean the building is,
so making the switch requires a lot of demonstration,” she says.
This not only is good news for employees working in those
spaces, it’s great news for the folks that are using the new
cleaning products, adds Hargreaves. “Graduates of the program
have told us that, when they made the switch to the eco-label
products, they no longer experienced symptoms like watery
eyes or a sore throat like they used to sometimes get.” An added
bonus: The certified janitors are taking their new knowledge
back home to their communities, with many reporting their
personal water and energy bills dropping as a result.
The program also is a prime example of keeping the
sustainable initiatives rolling long after the architects and
designers have left the building. “You can design a beautiful,
sustainable building with local materials and no volatile organic
compounds in the finishes,” Hargreaves says, “But, if you then
introduce toxic chemicals to clean that healthy space, it kind
of negates the whole thing.”
Among the Southern California-area building owners
already using Green Janitors are the Los Angeles Department
of Water and Power, Sony Studios, CBRE (Pacific Corporate
Towers), and Dream Works Animation Studios. The program
has moved up and down the California coast—from San Diego
to Silicon Valley—via additional USGBC chapters and is poised
to expand further as well, with USGBC chapters beyond
California state lines expressing interest in implementing
the program in their own regions.
Biophilic design elements,
like green walls and natural
wood, are in play at Delos’
headquarters in New York.
BRIAN J. BARTH
is a freelance writer with a background
in environmental planning and design.
He has written for a range of publications,
from Landscape Architecture Magazine
to New Yorker.com.
As passionate as she is about working towards a healthier
built environment, Gray also recognizes that researchers must
adopt a collaborative approach to bring that vision to fruition.
“As a scientist, it’s not my job to tell designers how to design
for health. That would be pretty bold,” she says, laughing.
“It’s like, ‘read this peer-reviewed article on the appropriate
lighting level for your eyes.’ My designer colleagues are going
to say: ‘Okay, that’s great; but what kind of light bulbs do we
need? How much do they cost? Is the company making them
going to go out of business next year? Because we have
multiyear management contracts on the space.’ That’s where
the breakdown happens. The most powerful way to translate
research into practice is to know where our work stops and
where the designers’ work starts, and actually make that
process more aligned and synergistic.”
Wellness design should focus on
supporting the health of those who
are most vulnerable, which inevitably
results in buildings that are healthy
for the population at large.
The Green Janitor
has proven beneficial
for both the graduates
and the buildings that
i+D — September/October 2018
Designing for the Unseen — By Brian J. Barth