LEED - Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design - and green building have taken off. Over 25% of the US construction market incorporates green features, including over 6,600 LEED rated buildings and over 35,000 LEED registered projects. No one working in the building industry can afford to be out of the LEED loop, if they want to stay relevant and competitive in our evolving green world. Becoming a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) is almost a necessity for building designers, engineers and contractors.
The creator of LEED, the US Green Building Council (USGBC), set the goal: transform the building market. Buildings are just one component of creating a sustainable built environment. People are an equally critical component. Not only do people occupy those buildings, they also design and build them. To transform a market, the people behind that market must also evolve. Here is where the new LEED Green Associate and LEED AP with Specialty comes in.
To design LEED projects, the design team needs:
- knowledge about green building systems, methods and products
- understanding of how those green strategies relate to the LEED scoring system
- when in the design process key LEED decisions should be made.
How does one learn all that? It's not as difficult as you might think to learn about LEED and green, but the LEED AP process has become a bit of a guantlet.
Training for LEED APs
LEED training is, ideally, two fold. First, you'll need to learn about green building and then about LEED. Since LEED and green buildings have dramatically increased in the market over the last decade, related educational resources are now readily available. From full day workshops to e-learning and books to college courses, there are as many ways to learn about green building as to design green buildings. The key aspects to cover include a review of green building strategies, energy efficiency from both architects and engineer perspectives, the LEED rating system most closely aligned to the project types you work on most (new buildings, interiors, etc.), and the LEED documentation and application process.
Accreditation for LEED APs
The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) was established as the accreditation counterpart of the USGBC. They administer the actual reviews of LEED project applications, and the testing of aspiring LEED APs. Between the new rigor behind LEED AP testing, the new 2009 version of LEED, the new Specialty designation for LEED APs, the new entry level "Green Associate" designation, and the new requirement that LEED APs complete bi-annual continuing education, the formal steps to becoming a LEED AP can seem like a lot to navigate. It is. Here's quick run through of the maze.
Becoming a LEED AP, for those new to LEED:
- Take green building and LEED preparation workshops.
- Read the LEED rating system and reference guide.
- Create an account at GBCI.org.
- Schedule and take the LEED Green Associate exam (You may elect to stop here if you are a vendor or a professional only occasionally involved on LEED projects).
- Study additional materials in support of the specialty of your choice (New construction, commercial interiors, neighborhood development, homes, or existing buildings).
- Work on at least one LEED project.
- Submit a letter documenting your project participation.
- Schedule, take and pass the exam.
Once you have worked through all of these steps, then you will be qualified to become a LEED AP with Specialty. At that stage, you will be required to complete continuing education (CE) related to your specialty, and pay a bi-annual credentialing maintenance fee. (LEED Green Associates only need 15 CE hours every two years but pay the same bi-annual fee.)
Already a LEED AP Prior to 2009?
If you obtained your LEED AP (without the new specialty designator) status prior to 2009 and want to upgrade into the new LEED AP with Specialty system you have two options:
- Remain an LEED AP in perpetuity, without annual fees or CE requirements.
- Transfer to the new system by October 2011, your maintenance fee is waived for the first year, then, take a specialty exam OR elect to take prescriptive continuing education related to your specialty.
Updating and incurring bi-annual fee and CE requirements may seem like too much trouble, but getting recognition for your LEED experience and demonstrating that you have knowledge commiserate with the new, more stringent and rigorous LEED AP with Specialty system could boost your overall appeal in the market.
Celebrations may then be in order - but don't forget to keep learning. LEED APs with Specialty must complete 30 hours of continuing education credits per year, including 6 LEED specific hours as outlined in the Credential Maintenance Program Guide.