Clean buildings roadmap

Amid growing demand for building efficiency and well being, Bridget Gardner shares a roadmap to the Australian building rating systems.

Chances are, you have at least one customer that is to working toward either a NABERS, Green Star-Performance or WELL building rating system.

With a growing demand for building efficiency and wellbeing, it is increasingly important to understand how you can assist your customers to meet these rating systems via the cleaning products and services you supply.

It all started with the NABERS Energy rating system way back in 1998 (called the Australian Building Greenhouse Rating). This was followed by NABERS Water, then Waste and Indoor Environment rating for offices was added in 2008.

Green Star – Performance was released by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) in 2013 to measure the ongoing use of Green Star rated buildings. And the WELL Building Standard was launched in the US in 2014 and came to Australia a year or two later.

There are basically two ways the cleaning industry can support their customers who are registered for one or more of these building rating systems:

  1. Directly: when the criteria contains requirements for cleaning products, practices, documentation or training.
  2. Indirectly: by using cleaning equipment or practices with evidence that they reduce energy or water consumption, prevent indoor pollutants and support recycling initiatives.

While there are cross-overs between all three systems, each has a unique area of focus. For example:

  • NABERS rates the building’s environmental impact by using scientific testing and data to measure its energy efficiency, water usage, waste management and indoor environment quality.
  • Green Star – Performance (GSP) also has a performance-based criteria but rates a wider range of building operational data than NABERS. It also includes factors that encourage, or necessitate a good outcome, such as equipment, policies and actions.
  • WELL Building Standard criteria is focused on the building design, build and supply to ensure a healthy environment for the wellbeing of its future occupants. Its comprehensive criteria requires evidence of materials compliance to specifications and standards, as well as ensitu scientific testing.

Below is a quick guide to the criteria most relevant to cleaning products and services within each system.


While there are no specific cleaning requirements in the NABERS criteria, the 2014 version of NABERS Indoor Environment Rating requires air quality testing for particulate matter, formaldehyde and total Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

This testing will detect VOCs emitted from cleaning products such as scented sprays, solvents, stain/graffiti removers, some glass cleaners and oil-based sealants.

Develop a policy for reducing the emission of pollutants while you clean, and indirectly help your customers achieve higher NABERS ratings. For example:

  • Cleaning products certified by Eco-labels with VOCs and/or fragrance-free products.
  • A ‘chemical-free’ system such as microfibre and/or altered water technology.
  • Diamond cutting pads to replace oil-based sealants.
  • Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filtration with well-maintained bags and filters.

Any evidence you can obtain to show that your cleaning equipment can reduce water or energy consumption to indirectly support these NABERS categories, plus your capacity to support waste recycling initiatives, will be advantageous.

Green Star – Performance

The current version of the Green Star – Performance rating tool, v1.2, was released in November last year. GSP rates the way in which a building is being operated across the same nine categories of Green Star –  four of which your products and services could assist indirectly: energy, water, materials and emissions.

GSP also has two categories that require direct involvement from the cleaning industry: Management (via the Green Cleaning Credit) and Waste (via the Waste from Operations Credit).

The Green Cleaning Credit requires the building owner / tenant to have a ‘green cleaning policy’ (or specification) that sets goals and performance targets for cleaning services, via documentation, procurement, management, monitoring and reporting, to deliver the following objectives:

  • Surface hygiene and cross-contamination prevention.
  • Supply of cleaning products / equipment to safe / environmental best practice standards.
  • Use of vacuum cleaners fitted with HEPA filtration.
  • Resource minimisation practices.

While the written policy attracts one point, an additional point is awarded for carrying it out in the building’s common areas, and a further point if it applies to all areas including tenancies. Obviously, cleaning companies with the capacity to meet, monitor and report on their customer’s performance targets and objectives, will be valued.

A fourth point is also available for having cleaning supervisors or managers with ‘Certificates of Attainment’ in the accredited training units: (current codes)

  • CPPCLO3011 – Clean using environmentally sustainable work practices.
  • CPPSS00052 – Develop and Implement environmentally sustainable cleaning programs.

The Waste from Operations Credit requires cleaning staff to be involved in managing, auditing and reporting on the building’s recycling and waste collection. As with NABERS, look for ways to improve and demonstrate energy efficiency and that can indirectly support their Green Star – Performance ratings.

The WELL Building Standard

Of the 10 ‘concepts’ in the WELL Building Standard, Cleaning Products and Protocol (X09) sits under ‘Materials’, with the aim ‘to reduce pathogens, allergens and hazardous cleaning chemicals’.

Unfortunately version v.2.1, released in June 2018, has less direct requirements for cleaning than v.1 had. However, it still contains some direct requirements for cleaning services, including:

Cleaning Product criteria:

  • Part 1 details cleaning product criteria for SDS or Eco-label certification.
  • Part 2 requires an operation schedule and staff training in cleaning sequencing and safe product selection and product / equipment handling
  • Cleaning protocols are required to detail:
    • Extent and frequency of cleaning.
    • Identification and maintenance of high touch points.
    • Product storage and labelling.

Keys to success

It is important to recognise that each rating system comprises multiple, optional criteria. A building manager may not be interested in the specific area that your service/product supports, or think it will not have a big enough impact on the scores.

Your aim therefore, is to do the work for them, by measuring and substantiating your claims and by strategically focusing on aspects that can deliver the biggest ‘bang for their buck’ within their registered rating system.

NABERS, Green Star and WELL building ratings are complex systems and more challenging for the facility manager than for you. Demonstrating your knowledge within your area of expertise is key to your success. Consider engaging the support of suitably qualified consultants to help you develop a cleaning program that enables you to tap into this exciting opportunity.

*Bridget Gardner is director of Fresh Green Clean and has completed both Green Star-Performance and WELL Foundation training, and provides training and documentation to meet their criteria. She can be contacted on: or

This article was first published in the September/October issue of INCLEAN magazine. To subscribe click here

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