LEED Green Associate Credential

Several friends and colleagues have asked me recently whether they should become LEED professionals. With the new hierarchical structure in LEED 2009, it's not easy to determine the appropriate level and specialty. As it happens, I've recommended to most of my colleagues that they seek the LEED Green Associate credential.

LEED Green Associate is the first step toward a specialty LEED Accredited Professional credential, but also represents a body of knowledge that is very helpful for a product rep or consultant to have. A LEED Green Associate understands the LEED application process, documentation requirements, credit interpretations, and standards that support LEED credits. He or she also has a basic understanding of the LEED credit categories and their environmental purposes. Project team structure and synergy, so important to the success of a green project, is also part of the exam. This is a great foundation of knowledge for any member of a LEED project team.

What this credential says about a product rep, consultant, or manufacturer is that the individual is "already on the bus", is already committed to sustainable design and construction. By investing time and energy in learning to be a LEED Green Associate, this person demonstrates the ability to support the project's team members in the critical tasks of LEED certification:
  • Selecting appropriate products that comply with targeted credits

  • Integrating products into high-performance systems

  • Documenting product compliance with credit requirement
  • Working together on coherent strategies to attain performance credits

The LEED Green Associate credential is similar to CSI's Construction Document Technologist, in that both credentials are prerequisites for specialty credentials. Like the CDT, the Green Associate shows a solid foundation of knowledge that benefits the team. Both credentials contribute to their holder's reputation as a trusted advisor, someone a design professional can turn to for help and good advice. Both credentials show that the holder understands the big picture of the project and its goals. If you're looking to distinguish yourself among your competitors, both credentials are great additions to your profile. The difference? CDT says that you'll be a good teammate for any project, and LEED Green Associate says that you can help get a project across the LEED finish line. (Why not do both?)

How will you know if LEED Green Associate isn't enough for you? I took the LEED AP exam when I had worked on enough LEED projects that colleagues already assumed I had the credential. Like CSI's certification exams, people frequently pursue the higher credential when they need to demonstrate a new level of commitment, either to clients or to employers. With the new specialty exams, you may find that you can distinguish yourself in a particular project type, like schools or retail, with that specialty exam. If you meet the qualifications to sit for the advanced exam, and pursuing LEED projects is an important part of your work or career goals, it may well be worth the effort to take the specialty exam.

If you are already on a LEED project team, you can fast-track to a LEED AP credential in your specialty by sitting for both parts of the exam at once. If you are a black-belt test-taker, by all means, take the plunge. Generally, though, as an exam coach, I've advised candidates to separate their exams by at least a month, to relieve the pressure on exam day and increase chances of success. This means, once again, that LEED Green Associate is your first step.

Ready to learn more about LEED Green Associate? http://www.gbci.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=83 is the place to begin.