LEED Accreditation: What You Should Know

Evelyn Long

Jan 3, 2022


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Many people have gone green by seeking an official certification to prove their home’s sustainability — the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. This credential denotes a home that is energy-efficient, sustainable, resourceful or environmentally friendly. Moreover, the home includes green design and construction concepts most others do not. These buildings often have a higher resale value and often promise tax credits, lower insurance premiums and affordable energy bills for occupants. 

In light of these benefits, the demand for green architects and contractors has skyrocketed in recent years. Homeowners want certified professionals who specialize in green operations and design specialists who know how to construct a building worthy of a LEED certification. Thus, many industry professionals are seeking LEED accreditation. 

LEED Accreditation: What is it?

Many people confuse LEED certification with LEED accreditation. The former applies to buildings, while the latter can only apply to humans. Those who do earn a LEED credential join an international community of professionals committed to building green, sustainable buildings. 

In studying for the exam, they’ll gain the foundational knowledge they need to compete for better-paying jobs within the industry. Plus, they’ll have a working knowledge of green building concepts regarding water, energy, air quality and more. 

There are two types of professional credentials for which you may apply.

LEED Accreditation Tier I: LEED Green Associate

LEED Green Associate certification is an entry-level credential that requires passing one test. Those that do will have an up-to-date understanding of current green building principles and practices. Moreover, they’re committed to furthering their career and dedicated to their professional future. 

There are no eligibility requirements to sit for the LEED Green Associate exam. However, the U.S. Green Business Certification Inc. recommends that candidates have some experience with green building concepts through educational courses, volunteering or work before testing. This exposure will increase your chances of passing the exam, which costs $100 to $250 to take. 

LEED Accreditation Tier II: LEED AP

Once you’ve achieved associate status, you may consider applying and testing for LEED AP accreditation. This credential is an advanced qualification for sustainability professionals and distinguishes those with more comprehensive and detailed expertise in a particular LEED rating system. Plus, you’ll gain expertise in a particular LEED rating system. 

There are five different specialties within this system. 

  • LEED AP Building Design and Construction suits professionals with expertise in the design and construction of green buildings. Typically, those who serve in commercial, residential and healthcare sectors apply for certification with this specialty. 
  • LEED AP Operations and Maintenance distinguishes professionals looking to impact existing buildings through more efficient operations and maintenance. Those with interest in reducing environmental impact and improving performance may grow their passions with an O+M specialty. 
  • LEED AP Interior Design and Construction is an excellent choice for professionals who specialize in creating sustainable, healthy and productive workspaces. Often, their work involves designing and constructing commercial interiors and residential spaces. 
  • LEED AP Neighborhood Development applies to individuals participating in the design and development of communities. Their work may include making neighborhoods walkable or designing green spaces. 
  • LEED AP Homes is a specialty best suites for those involved in residential construction and design. Their focus includes building healthy, durable homes that require fewer resources and produce less waste. 

Once you choose your specialty, you may register for the AP exam — and specialty test — for $400 to $550. The cost of a specialty-only exam is $250 to $350. 

Study Up

Regardless of how much experience you have with green building and design concepts, it’s wise to study before taking your exam. So, take a few online courses or a practice test through the U.S. Green Building Building Council or enroll in a four-week exam study plan to prepare yourself. The council also offers study guides that include sample questions and study references and you can even register for an exam prep workshop in your local community. 

Once you feel confident, register for the exam, go to the test center the day of and take the exam. You’ll receive youre results within 72 hours. If you pass, you can add your new credentials to your resume. Just be sure to maintain your accreditation by completing 30 continuing-education courses every two years. Otherwise, you could forfeit your accreditation. 

LEED for a Better Future 

In summary, passing your exams and earning LEED accreditation is a noteworthy accomplishment on your path to becoming a green industry professional. Gaining a better understanding of sustainable practices and design concepts will make you a vital asset to any team. Plus, earning your credentials will help you build a more sustainable future, benefiting you, your organization, the industry and the entire planet. 

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