The Business Case
Clients that are building and renovating today want to do so responsibly and for the least amount of money. They are beginning to evaluate their building projects not only as long-term investments but they are also taking a closer look at the sustainability of their choices (life-cycle cost analysis, environmental impact, impact on occupant productivity). They also have employees, customers and shareholders that are all asking “What can we do to be green?”. Someone with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credentials can assist in both the evaluation and implementation of green building practices.
The credentials make a clear statement: I understand and I am committed to building green.
There are two types of credentials available from The Green Building Certification Institute. LEED Accredited Professional (AP) and LEED Green Associate (GA). These credentials have been established to be somewhat of a clearing house for those working in either the design or construction of green buildings. Both require a significant amount of material to study and sitting for a third party exam.
Of course, just having the “LEED AP” behind your name doesn’t make you an expert but it does indicate that you have a certain amount of knowledge and experience in LEED.GBCI/USGBC did catch some flack under the old exam (prior to 2009) because you didn’t need any experience to sit for it. The market was certainly flooded with new LEED AP’s… and the question was raised “Do these LEED AP’s know what they are talking about or did they just memorize the material?”
They have since modified the criteria and to sit for the LEED AP exam now you must have worked on at least one LEED project. This does somewhat differentiate the candidates although you cannot guarantee the exact level of experience. For more information on becoming a LEED AP, check out the various handbooks here: http://www.gbci.org/main-nav/professional-credentials/candidate-handbooks.aspx
LEED Green Associate:
For those without the opportunity to work on a LEED Project, GBCI also created the LEED Green Associate exam. Although the credential may not carry as much weight in the industry as the AP designation, it certainly denotes a level of understanding and commitment for the candidate. I highly recommend if you have an interest in green building pursuing this credential. Not only will it allow you a great foundation for your career, it is a great way for anyone to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive edge in this competitive job market. This would also be a great way for college students to add a critical piece to their resume. For the Green Associate handbook, go here: http://www.gbci.org/Files/Candidate-Handbooks/LEED-Green-Associate.pdf
For both the LEED AP and the LEED Green Associate professionals there is continuing education required. Every two years each LEED AP and GA will need to record 30 and 15 hours of continuing education respectively. A certain number of these hours must be LEED focused. This encourages the professionals to continually strive for improvement and to validate their credentials on an ongoing basis. Check with your local USGBC Chapter for seminars, courses and green building tours which can help you with this process. Here is the credential maintenance handbook: http://www.gbci.org/Files/cmp_guide.pdf
The Ultimate Goal: A Better Finished Product
The more LEED AP’s you can have working on a project the more well rounded the project will be. Everyone on the team will understand the “rules of the game” per-say. Every team member whether it be the owners representative, the architect, the mechanical engineer, or the construction manager should understand the synergies of the credits and how each system integrates into the functionality and ultimately the sustainability of the building.
Throughout the design & construction of any project, many variables need to be evaluated: Cost, Quality, Environmental Impact and Life Cycle Analysis. Each member of the team should be able to speak to these traits given their area of expertise and weigh in accordingly on all critical decisions such as systems, products, design aspects, etc. Ultimately the goal is to complete a building that in the long run uses the least amount of energy, reduces the impact on the environment and is comfortable for the owner and the building occupants.