Given the cost of cleaning and its impacts on health and the environment, it is remarkable that so little attention has been focused on this issue. For the average commercial building in the U.S., more than half as much money is spent per year on cleaning as on energy. In energy-efficient
green buildings, significantly more money may be spent on cleaning than on energy. Cleaning compounds and compounds used for stripping and refinishing floors can be a building's largest sources of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Except for a few lonely voices out there touting the importance of design for cleanability, the green building movement has been nearly silent on this issue.
This article takes a look at design for cleanability in commercial and institutional buildings. It addresses strategies for designing buildings to minimize the need for cleaning and reduce the costs and impacts of the cleaning that is required. Actual cleaning methods and materials are not covered to a significant extent. While the article is most relevant to commercial and institutional buildings, much of the information it presents can also be applied to residential buildings.