ABCs of accreditation

USGBC changes its credentialing program

Sustainable Space columnists Lori Brown and Greg Kallio are professors in the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management at Chico State University.

Get it done!
If you have been thinking about earning one of the most recognized green-building credentials, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP), now is the time. This credential indicates that the professional has a thorough understanding of green-building practices, and the knowledge and skills to facilitate the LEED certification process.

During the USGBC’s annual GreenBuild Conference in November, the organization announced major changes to its credentialing program. The current process calls for a two-hour, multiple-choice exam with 80 questions. The exam costs $300 for USGBC members and $400 for non-members. If you fail the exam and choose to take it again, you’ll pay the same fee. Obviously, the best plan is to pass it on your first try by going in fully prepared. If you would like advice on doing exactly that, feel free to contact me. I’ve got the skinny on how to make it happen. Being an educator for more than 20 years has really helped to reduce my own test anxiety.

Why now?
By passing the exam you will join more than 60,000 others who have successfully earned the prestigious title of LEED AP. If you are a builder or involved at all in the green-building industry, you should seriously consider becoming a LEED AP. Once you earn the title it is your right to use it professionally. But you had better hurry, because the opportunity to become accredited by taking only one exam ends soon. March 31 is the last day to register to take the current exam.

Ch-ch-changes …
USGBC has earned a reputation for complicating things, and the changes being implemented to the LEED AP credentialing program are no exception. The process is being replaced by a three-tier system. The first tier, Green Associate, is for anyone interested in distinguishing him- or herself as someone knowledgeable about the USGBC rating systems and the LEED certification process. LEED experience will not be a requirement, but you will have to pass a two-hour exam.

The second tier, LEED AP+, will be earned by taking a second exam (for more greenbacks), and demonstrating advanced knowledge about green-building systems and design. You also will have to substantiate that you have had experience participating in certifying at least one LEED building. The third-tier, LEED Fellow, is for serious green-building gurus. These sustainability superheroes will need to produce a portfolio of green-building experience that not even the USGBC is willing to specify at this time.

Money, money, money …
It’s not surprising the USGBC is making these changes to its credentialing program. As a new nonprofit in 1993, the organization was probably excited early on when it gained enormous and rapid popularity. Back then, there probably wasn’t much thought given to one basic rule of economics: that thing called the “cash cow.” The new three-tier system corrects that. If you want to remain a LEED AP+ it’ll cost you $50 bi-annually, and you’ll have to earn credits for continuing your education by attending green-building workshops approved by the USGBC. No wonder they call it “green” building.