LEED v4.1 Certification: Safety First Pilot Credits Launched

Posted On: 
Jun 12, 2020
Safety First Pilot Credits

The USGBC has launched four new Safety First Pilot Credits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The credits contain sustainable best practices that relates to public health and industry guidelines related to cleaning and disinfecting, workplace re-occupancy, HVAC and plumbing operations. We will provide an examination of the LEED v4.1 credits and how they can help project teams.

Due to the pandemic, the USGBC is launching programs that will support a global recovery effort and leverage the power of our the AEC community to shape a healthier future for all. The Safety First Pilot Credits are part of this new initiative. The USGBC has stated that “healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy.” The Safety Pilot Credits can be used for 2009, LEED v4, and LEED v4.1 projects. Let’s review the credits in more detail . . .

LEED Credit Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space

The intent of the Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space credit is “To provide effective cleaning and disinfecting relative to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), during re-occupancy and during operations while minimizing adverse health impacts on cleaning personnel, building occupants and visitors; and the environment.”

The credit requires facilities to develop a policy and put forth procedures that follow green cleaning best practices that support a healthy indoor environment and worker safety. Besides product considerations, the credit also requires procedures and training for cleaning staff, building occupant education and other services that are within the management team’s control.

For product selection, the credit uses the EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 and formulated with the active ingredients recommended EPA’s Design for the Environment Logo for Antimicrobial Pesticide Products. In addition to product selection, the credit promotes procedures on cleaning and disinfection. The procedures must meet the requirements of CDC and EPA on Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes

Furthermore, the Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space LEED credit mandates protection for cleaning staff, training of cleaning team members, and building occupant education. These requirements include everything from the use of proper personnel protective equipment (PPE) including eye protection, masks, gloves and gowns for all cleaning staff to education on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace in accordance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard.

Project teams must provide documentation and compliance for the new LEED Pilot Credit. Documentation includes a narrative of the green cleaning strategies implemented by the project team, including a timeline outlining when new practices were put in place for COVID-19. In addition, project teams must an inventory of cleaning products and materials used or purchased to clean the building, describe the training program for cleaning staff, and a description of the building occupant education.

LEED Credit Safety First: Re-Enter Your Workspace

The intent of the Safety First: Re-Enter Your Workspace LEED credit is “to promote best practice requirements in operations and human behavior to take precautions against the spread of COVID 19.” is a tool to assess and plan for re-entry as well as to measure progress once the space is occupied. The new LEED credit identifies sustainable requirements in building operations and human behavior that take precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

There are three key components to this LEED credit. Project teams must use the AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool V1.0, create a management and operations plan, and keep a daily journal with building management and building occupants and keep all data transparent for submission. The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool provides design professionals, clients, and civic leaders several strategies for reoccupying buildings and businesses that are in the process of transitioning from being fully closed to fully open. The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool includes four key resources:

  • baseline parameters for re-occupancy
  • architectural and engineering strategies for site and site arrival, building envelope, fixtures and furnishings, plumbing and HVAC
  • administrative policies and procedures to reduce the spread of pathogens and support physical distancing
  • and policies and procedures related to PPE

The second key component for the Safety First: Re-Enter Your Workspace LEED credit is developing a management and operations plan that includes: Building or place preparation, workforce preparation, access control, social distancing, green cleaning, touch point reduction, and communication. Documentation and compliance requirements for the credit include: submitting a management operation plan, assessment for reoccupancy, and the daily journal.

LEED Credit Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning

The intent of the Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning LEED credit is to “to reduce occupant exposure risks associated with degraded water quality in community and building water systems due to stagnant or low water use.” The credit is intended to help building teams reduce the risk that building occupants are exposed to degraded water quality. Building closures over months reduce water usage, which can potentially lead to stagnant water or water that is unhealthy to consume or use. The credit incorporates suggestions from industry organizations and experts, including the U.S. EPA and the Centers for Disease Control. It mandates that project teams develop and launch a water management plan, coordinate with local water and public health authorities, convey water system activities and associated risks to building occupants, and implement strategies to address water quality from the community supply, as well as the building.

The Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning LEED credit mandates that project teams create and implement a water quality management plan for the building water system and all devices that use water. The plan must be in accordance with ASHRAE Standard 188-2018: Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems (BWS). “Legionellosis” refers to two distinct clinical illnesses. When the bacterium Legionella causes pneumonia, the dis- ease is referred to as “Legionnaires’ disease”. The CDC estimates that there are between 8000 and 18,000 cases of the disease in the United States annually and that more than 10% of these cases are fatal. Legionella can also cause a less-severe influenza-like illness known as “Pontiac fever.” Most outbreak cases of legionellosis are the result of exposure to Legionella associated with building water systems.

The ASHRAE Standard provides minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for the design, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance, repair, replacement, and expansion of new and existing buildings and their associated (potable and non-potable) water systems and components. The standard applies to human-occupied commercial, institutional, multiunit residential, and industrial buildings. This standard does not include single-family residential buildings.

The Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning LEED credit contains three steps:

  • Step One: Address Water Quality from Community Water Supply
  • Step Two: Address Water Quality Inside the Building
  • Step Three: Maintain Building Water Systems

The mandated documentation and compliance for the LEED credit includes a building water quality management plan, test results from community water system, Documentation of building flushing activities, and several other requirements. For additional guidance on how to ensure the availability and safety of water for building occupants, project teams are encouraged to review the WELL Health-Safety Rating.

LEED Credit Safety First: Managing Indoor Air Quality during COVID-19

The intent of the Safety First: Managing Indoor Air Quality during COVID-19 LEED credit is “to promote precautionary best practices for managing air quality in buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic to minimize spread of COVID-19 through the air.” This particular pilot credit has been flagged by the USGBC and they state that the topic of indoor air quality and COVID-19 “is subject to debate as there is much still unknown about how the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted and what steps should be taken for indoor air quality to limit disease transmission.”

The credit is founded on existing indoor air quality requirements and credits in LEED. Project teams should make sure 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 strategies include increasing ventilation and air filtration and physical distancing of occupants and following measures outlined in public health and industry resources. The LEED credit contains two key aspects, following CDC guidelines for business and workplaces and using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to help ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) as a supplement to help inactivate the virus.

Since pandemic is an ongoing situation with a constantly changing legal and regulatory landscape; the information and guidance provided in the LEED Safety First Pilot Credits may at any time not be current. In preparing this guidance and its conclusions and recommendations, USGBC has tried to incorporate the best available information at the time the guidance was prepared. These new credits are based on current, known information. USGBC will refine its recommendations and is looking for feedback on the new credits.

Overall, the Safety First Pilot Credits provide a new path to addressing several critical issues related to the pandemic sweeping the nation. Hopefully, many of these strategies can be used by project teams to provide a healthier and safer environment for building occupants. In addition, as new infectious diseases rear their ugly head in the future, these strategies may help protect people and ensure a safer built environment for all.  


For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank