In Focus: LEED Certification
LEED has grown to a household name in architecture and engineering circles, but it is still a foreign concept to many who are beginning to recognize the potential that a LEED Accreditation can offer.
From lawyers who now need to demonstrate a working knowledge of LEED to handle specific cases, to those in the hospitality industry who need to speak coherently about the green features of their hotel or resort, those in non-technical industries are looking to be LEED accredited and often don’t know where to start. In addition, as LEED solidifies itself in the global green building market, more technical industries, such as HVAC, electricians and plumbers are looking to become LEED accredited.
So let’s start from square one. What is LEED Certification?
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
It was developed by the United States Green Building Council, or USGBC, as a standard for environmentally sustainable construction that also protects the triple bottom line – occupant’s health, economic vitality, and limited environmental impact.
There are specific credit categories associated with the environmental impacts of building construction and operation. These include: energy and atmosphere, indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, materials and resources, and sustainable sites.
Each of these credit categories are applied in slightly different ways for each of the LEED rating systems. The rating systems include: Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Operations and Maintenance, LEED for Homes and Neighborhood Development.
LEED accreditation is the process that individual professionals go through to show their knowledge of green buildings and the LEED rating systems. This is a crucial component of the growth of LEED, to date there are over 160,000 LEED Professionals worldwide
There are various types of LEED accreditation, just like there are different rating systems for LEED certification of buildings.
The first level is the LEED Green Associate; this is the perfect entry point for anyone involved in the building and construction industry, in both technical and non-technical professions. In order to become a Green Associate, you must pass the 2-hour exam that covers the basic green building concepts and the LEED credit categories mentioned earlier.
The LEED exams are administered by the Green Building Certification Institute, which is connected to, but separate from the USGBC. You must also maintain your credential by taking 15 hours of continuing education every two years.
After that, there are various specialty credentials for those who want to become a LEED Accredited Professional, or LEED AP. These line up with neatly with the LEED rating systems.
- LEED AP Building Design and Construction – those who will work on new buildings and major renovations
- LEED AP Operations and Maintenance – those who will work in existing buildings, such as building owners and operators
- LEED Interior Design and Construction – those who will be working for tenants leasing portion of larger building, such as a retail store or commercial office space
- LEED for Homes – those who will work on residential structures no more than 3 stories tall
- LEED for Neighborhood Development – those who will be involved in larger scale development, smart growth and urbanism
In order to be eligible to take a LEED Accredited Professional exam, you must hold your LEED Green Associate, or take the Green Associate exam in the same session as the LEED AP exam. You must also have “project experience” in the last 3 years working on a building that is currently registering for, or already has a LEED Certification.
Once you are eligible, you may take any of the 200-question LEED AP exams, which go in depth into a specific rating system. You only have to take and pass one of the exams to become a LEED AP, but there is no limit to how many specialties you can have.
You must also maintain your specialty credential by taking 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
Of course, the green building industry is constantly changing and the USGBC is adapting LEED to change with it. This is coming in the form of LEED V4 (previously LEED 2012). Originally set for release in 2012, the USGBC decided to delay the release until June 1st, 2013. This system is being developed with rounds of public comment periods, in which stakeholders review the changes made and express their questions and concerns.
If this seems like too quick of a change, do not worry, the LEED 2009 & LEED homes Certifications for buildings will remain available for 3 years after the release of LEED V4.
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