LEED Accreditation – Fad or Necessity?

June 25, 2009 at 7:57 am 19 comments

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

Is it really necessary to become a LEED accredited professional (LEED AP)? Can you design for sustainability without having LEED accreditation?  Is this just another acronym to put on a business card? Or, as some suggest, is this a half hearted attempt by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to exploit the demand for solutions to environmental issues and make some money along the way?

Just a few years ago only a select few individuals had LEED AP following their name.  Now more than 75,000 architects and engineers proudly display this designation to demonstrate their prowess in green building, strategies and technologies. The USGBC clearly states that the “LEED Professional Accreditation distinguishes building professionals with the knowledge and skills to successfully steward the LEED certification process.” As LEED certification becomes better defined, the LEED AP testing has become more difficult and comprehensive.

The LEED train has left the station and whether critics like it or not, it is here to stay. Therefore, having LEED AP on your resume will become a necessity and possibly valued in the future as the PE, AIA, RLA or AICP designations are now. Whether one can or has designed with an eye to sustainability in the past will no longer matter, without having the acronym after their name.  Experts concur that, for now, LEED is here to stay and one might as well get on board.

Do understand that as the U.S. increases desirability and need for green design, skeptics are becoming louder and activists more outspoken. Pete Wann’s blog on the “Fashion of LEED Bashing” suggests that the original critics were builders and developers and that today’s naysayers are those from the environmental and architectural traditionalist movements. While an Internet search turned up plenty of arguments on both sides of the recycled fence, I still think that in spite of its flaws and inadequacies, the LEED program is better than nothing when it motivates people to seriously face the future environmental challenges. And if we are going to have universally accepted guidelines (I don’t see the USGBC going away) then why not have professionals accredited? What do you think?

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Entry filed under: Career Development, Civil Engineering Issues, Environmental Issues, LEED, Sustainability, US Infrastructure. Tags: , , , .

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19 Comments Add your own

  • […] Engineers were still pondering the sustainability of the sustainability fad? In 2009, posts like LEED Accreditation – Fad or Necessity? from the Civil Engineering Central Blog and Is LEED a Load? from the Archinect Discussion Forum […]

  • 2. April  |  June 30, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I found everyone’s comments so interesting. I recently purchased a space to convert to a LEED certified project. We have the plans done and are in the process of sourcing materials. I am converting the property into a “off-the-grid” minimum carbon imprint commercial space with offices, a restaurant and wellness center. I truly believe in eocological building and design. I was very dissapointed to realize the high costs in registering a project for LEED certification and finding out that the awards have no monetary backing. If the awards aren’t going to provide funds or tax credits or something, LEED really shouldn’t charge so much for the certification process. As a business owner, if my team takes the time to souce the materials (all with LEED scorecards), spend the 70 hours to document everything as they request and are willing to exhibit the LEED logo upon completion, there should either be a monetary credit of some type or be free. It’s hard enough to afford all of the eco-friendly products and the customized teams that come with it. LEED certification should be free, focused on providing eduction with online resources and made up of volunteers that are voted into the council rather than trying to capitalize on the good hearts of businesses that are trying to make positive impacts.

    • 3. jayce  |  August 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm

      i think thats on the process of getting tax credits for it soon…i was watching a LEED meeting on youtube about it…I like LEED a lot it is the future, and us talking about its benefits and flaws are a good thing. Trust me they are listening and making changes to make it better than before…thats the whole idea behind sustainability…

  • 4. steve  |  July 2, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    I think it’s terrible that GBCI charged $400 to take the v2.2 test. The new version is even more expensive. It’s legalized extortion.

  • 5. richa  |  July 2, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I can relate most to VICTOR’s comments. I studied LEED to be more aware and to educate myself so I can implement the tools in my designs. Since everyone was heading for becoming LEED-AP, I too decided to sit for the test. What is most unfair, is some candidates get harder tests v.s. others. I happen to get an extremelly hard one and got a 169 — but did pass all the 4 parts. I studied for 3 months and immersed myself for the last 3 weeks. On greenexamprep tests I was scoring 83 to 90%, so certainly felt very ready. I know people who don’t know as much as I know who passed with flying colors ONLY because they got an easier test.

    Please remember, the ONE advantage a LEED-AP has, is that if they are involved you get ‘1’ ID point. A non LEED-AP can certify the buildings too infact could be the administrators for the project. Its upseting that we educated professionals are feeding into GBCI’s frenzy to make money over a fad…….. To ask us to memorize a reference book & depending on luck get handed an easier or harder test is hardly a true dipiction of the candidate’s knowledge.

  • 6. hintonhumancapital  |  July 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    As the emphasis on sustainabilty increases, LEED-AP will evolve and become organized. The certification is a way for the industry to standardize building design and certification practices and help the clients shop for services.

  • 7. Barry Colwell  |  July 1, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Just passed the test today,on the last day for the old process, 6/30. I’m not an architect nor an engineer – and I didn’t read the entire reference guide – just scanned it. I DID however spend the last two weekends hard core studying, using the flashcards recommended, a notebook from someone else’s LEED review course, and a sample test. That’s it. It is DOABLE!

    • 8. Bill Leard  |  July 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm


      Congratulations on passing. I, too, just passed the exam (06/27). One question: Since you are not an architect or an engineer, what are you planning on doing with your Leed AP status? I myself am not an architect, engineer, contractor, or planner. All I have is a drafting and surveying background, and I just completed a 3 semester, non thesis Masters of Science in Architecture degree from a major university (don’t let the name fool you; it is basically a design degree, and in no way qualifies me to be a licensed architect). A teacher in that program talked me into taking the exam. Now I am trying to figure out what to do with my LEED Accreditation, because it seems every job I have googled dealing with LEED is for those with AP status AND some type of license (architects, engineers, etc.).

      Not trying to be nosy, just curious..

  • 9. Debra Jacobs  |  June 30, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I became LEED accredited for many reasons. 1) I feel that one should attain any certification that would be of use in what they do. As someone who works for a public agency in a very well-educated community, I need to have all the credibility that I can get my hands on. 2) I’ve been applying green building concepts to my work long before it became fashionable. It seemed only logical to demonstrate that I understand what that means. 3) It is a nationally recognized credential, so it is useful when applying for jobs in other states. 4) As a lifelong learner, I want to know about anything that will allow me to be a better person, especially when that will allow me to be better at my job. 5)Now that subspecialties and academic rigor are being applied to the credential, it will have more value and be more of a challenge to maintain. I plan to go for at least 2 of the subcategories. I’ve learned a lot from the first exam effort. (I must agree with the previous comments about the present exam contents.) I want to find out what I can learn from the subcategories and the required continuing education.

  • 10. John Poole  |  June 29, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    I just passed the LEED AP test, and I agree that the system needs to be better organized. But the good news is that they are doing this with a weighted credit system. LEED is by far the leader in sustainable building and I think they will continue to be with their commitment to improvement.

  • 11. victor  |  June 29, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I am a LEED AP, recently passed the exam. My biggest complaint about the accreditation process is that it is totally absurd an arbitrary. A candidate is to memorize an entire manual and hope that he can remember it all during the exam. Any individual can reference a manual or a set of standards without having to memorize it verbatim. The manual is poorly written with minimal correlation between credits and prerequisites. It is up to the candidate to make the connections. I am an Architect, and can see how the entire program is geared towards Architects and MEP engineers. If the manuals and documentation were properly and intelligently presented, anyone could pass the exam. The focus on memorization implies that there is nothing to think about or analize, therefore exposing the weakness of the entire program. If you think about it, LEED AP is a fabricated accreditation. It is not a license or diploma. It is voluntary. But people fall for the latest fad and assume it is the law. When I started studying LEED, my interest was in learning usefull environmental techniques that I could use in my practice. What I found was an inane amount of information presented in a totally disorganized fashion, requiring a significant amount of time to decifer.

    • 12. jayce  |  August 20, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      i agree…i passed my LEED Green Associate as a student studying construction management and the study guide and core concepts books that i bought from the USGBC were unorganized and little help to me…i hope they will change their way and that is what they intent to do it to always changing the system to make it better…LEED is here to stay but they need to have a clear vision of how it is beneficial to the individual

  • 13. John Hennessy  |  June 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    LEED is hear to stay. For a period of time it could be a differentiating factor when trying to secure work. Now it is a need to have for a project.

    It will never carry the same weight as a PE, AIA, etc as these are governmental certifications about competence and are licenses to practice. LEED is not a license to practive

  • 14. Janine Dowling  |  June 27, 2009 at 8:07 am

    What we are seeing with the development of the LEED certification and accreditation process is a typical pathway of a field’s development. When you look at the licensing process of any field it changes and grows as the field does. Hopefully the GBC is learning as they grow and develop their niche, just as sustainability is learning and growing. While I’m a LEED AP interior designer, I also had another career and had to be licensed to practice. It’s a parallel process and this is not new to any field’s development. The important thing is for those practicing in the field to give feedback to the GBC, pros and cons about their process and their standards.

  • 15. Michelle Bowers  |  June 26, 2009 at 11:52 am

    i totally concur that the LEED ship has sailed, and it is in design professional’s best interests to be on it, whether they agree that it is the best program or not. The LEED brand is the most recognized sustainable brand in the design industry, and it is rapidly becoming known to the general public.

    I personally think that GBCI is making a mistake in the way it is identifying the middle tier of accreditation, with a jumble of letters after LEED, depending on which test you took. I think it is just going to confuse clients. “Do I hire a LEED CI or a LEED C&S or a LEED NC…?”

  • 16. David Perrings  |  June 25, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    LEED, it is something that i am seeing a lot more of these days. Also the word sustainable design. I have to confess I really know nothing about either on of these two words.

    In recent years ( at lest up until the crash of the economy) the who issue of stormwater quaility was having a real tangable impact on my workload, For the first time in my 30 year career as a civil engineer i felt like drainage engineering was actually fashionable, imagine my suprise. As to the relationship between recent water quailty requirements driving the work and sound engineering practice the jury is still out.

    So i suppose that with respect to LEED and sustainability time will tell whether they are a necessity (we begin to see tangable benifit) or just another fad.

    David Perrings, PE

  • 17. Kerry B. Harding  |  June 25, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I feel that Dana’s comment is somewhat misleading. First of all, buildings are certified, people are accredited. Secondly, while it IS true that three fundamental changes to the LEED credentialing program are being phased in throughout 2009, the designation “LEED AP” will continue to apply to those who have successfully passed the LEED accreditation exam prior to July 1, 2009. After that, the exam will recognize three levels of excellence that distinguish practitioners with basic, advanced, and extraordinary levels of knowledge. The term “LEED AP” will then be accompanied by initials for the exam’s area of specialty. Staff at the Green Building Certification Institute, the organization that took over the LEED accreditation process from the U.S. Green Building Council, do not foresee the “LEED AP” designation as something that will cease to exist under the tiered structure. Kerry B. Harding, kerry.harding@talentbankinc.com, http://www.talentbankinc.com

    • 18. Steve  |  July 9, 2009 at 12:55 am

      My LEED AP certificate clearly states that the GBCI *certifies* me as a LEED AP.

  • 19. Dana  |  June 25, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Check the LEED website. There is no more LEED-AP. The new certification is tiered- with only specialized professionals who have actually done LEED projects being able to be certified at the higher level. I think it will become more meaningful.


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