Major changes announced for LEED AP credential program
7/1/09 Update: If you're looking to keep up to date on LEED 2009, I recommend checking out our own LEEDuser.com, which was recently launchedPosted from Greenbuild '08.
Update posted 11/24/08, below: Do existing LEED APs need to retake the exam?
If you thought the proliferation of various different types of LEED rating systems was confusing, wait till you find out what the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) has in store for LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED APs), the folks who can pass an exam to be recognized as an expert in LEED. (GBCI, by the way, took over the LEED AP program about a year ago from USGBC.)
First, I'll explain what GBCI has planned for the 65,000 people (like me) who are already LEED APs. These people will be known informally as Legacy LEED APs:
With LEED 2009 being launched in March 2009, the current LEED AP exam will be phased out. The final opportunity to take the current exam under the current rules will be May 2009.
Starting in June 2009, Legacy LEED APs have two years to opt in to the new system. Once you decide to opt in, you have another two years to complete the requirements. If you haven't updated your credential by then (a maximum of four years if you're deadline-driven), you can no longer use it and must start from square one.
Legacy LEED APs must sign on to a disciplinary policy, which is basically a code of ethics for LEED APs. (Interestingly, there may be some kind of peer enforcement system here.) There will also be credentialing maintenance (continuing education) requirements, which haven't been outlined yet, and a biannual "maintenance fee" of $50.
Sometime in Spring 2009 (probably around June), a new LEED AP regime takes effect. The most radical feature is multiple tiers. (Quotes are from a back-of-the-room handout at GBCI's announcement, which was just posted to GBCI's website.)
Tier I: LEED Green Associate. "Evoking both environmental protection and growth potential, the LEED Green Associate credential attests to demonstrated knowledge and skill in practicing green design, construction, and operations." To be eligible, you must "Be employed in a sustainable field of work or engaged in an education program in green building principals [sic] and LEED." Beth Holst of GBCI explained that this is intended for students, or employees at companies supporting LEED such as manufacturers. You must pass the basic "Green Associate Exam" to earn the credential. Biannual education maintenance of 15 hours.
Tier II: LEED Accredited Professional. "Signifies an extraordinary depth of knowledge in green building practices and specialization in a particular field." To be eligible, you must "Document work on a LEED project, within the last two–three years."
LEED APs at this level will be distinguished by a specialty, including ID+C (interiors), BD+C (new construction), O+M (operations & maintenance), HOMES (um, homes), and ND (neighborhood development). Biannual education of 30 hours.
Tier III: LEED AP Fellow. "LEED AP Fellows enter an elite class of leading professionals who are distinguished by their years of experience." To be eligible, you must demonstrate "Major contributions to the standards of practice and body of knowledge for achieving continuous improvement in the green building field." Applicants obtain the credential by peer review.
According to Holst, the GBCI Board of Directors has approved the creation of this credential but has not "framed out" in detail what it means.
In support of this new regime, the LEED Green Associate exam will go through beta testing with volunteers in February 2009. You can volunteer for this by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The exam will be launched in Spring 2009, probably around June. There will probably be a short period of downtime, about a week, when no exam is available.
Exams for LEED AP specialties (the Tier II folks) will go through beta testing starting in February 2009 with OM, in March with HOMES, and later in the spring with BD+C and ID+C. Those actual exams will be launched in spring and summer. There is no timeline offered yet for ND. The credentialing maintenance program will also launch in the summer.
Why all the trouble?
GBCI is responding to the fact that there are 65,000 LEED APs and counting, some of whom have in-depth experience with dozens of LEED projects, and specialized knowledge in the rating sytems. Some of those, on the other hand, may have taken the exam years ago when it was easier and before LEED went through quite a bit of development, and have not maintained LEED expertise since then. A lot of people fall somewhere in between. The new regime creates an objective distinction among different levels of expertise, which has obvious benefits for all.
GBCI is also attempting to comply with ISO 17024 as part of its evolution into a more standards-driven organization.
Will there be confusion? I'm confused. I spent 10 minutes in the back of the room with a GBCI rep, and I still don't understand what happens to legacy LEED APs -- if they become fully rolled into Tier II with its specializations, or if they remain generic LEED APs. The GBCI website, as usual, isn't very good at anticipating and answering actual questions. Try to figure out how the LEED AP exam is scored, for example.
If you're thinking about taking the test sooner than later, here are two posts from me on studying to be a LEED AP and taking a practice exam.
Update: The key question for many existing LEED APs is "Do I need to take an exam to keep my credential?"
Despite attending the program's rollout, I remained unsure about this, because it didn't seem clear how Legacy LEED APs fit into the new structure of specialty LEED APs. (By the way, GBCI's new FAQ introduces yet another term for this Tier II group: LEED AP+.)
The answer from GBCI's Holst: When a Legacy LEED AP opts into the new system by signing the disciplinary policy, they are placed directly into one of the Tier II designations based on the exam they originally took, and general expertise. No exam needed.