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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, which was recently launched Posted 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 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.

Published November 20, 2008

(2008, November 20). Major changes announced for LEED AP credential program. Retrieved from

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December 10, 2008 - 6:58 pm

Nathan, from everything I've seen, existing legacy LEED APs will not have to meet the LEED project experience requirement that future LEED APs will be required to meet. Also, it seems project experience is only required for Obtaining the LEED AP in the future, not for Maintaining the credential.

For those interested in learning more, I've built a free online education class that summarizes and explains the credential changes, which is available at no cost at

December 10, 2008 - 12:44 pm

I am a LEED AP and have read through the various pages of the GBCI website explaining this transition. I noticed that, in the new "tiered" version of credentials, a LEED AP+ must have experience on at least one LEED project. Will this be a requirement of current LEED APs (future Legacy LEED APs) as well? I haven't yet had the opportunity to work on a LEED project and am concerned that I may lose my LEED AP status.

December 5, 2008 - 7:16 am

I would hope that current AIA LU courses will mesh with LEED LU requirements. Having to fulfill a potential of 18 AIA LU's/year and 15 LEED LU's/year is not something to look forward to.

September 28, 2009 - 7:21 am

Regards to a legacy LEED ap, I found a good post as below. See the post named by David with a date on August 3 2009. (have to scroll down a bit)
According to the post, it you are a legacy LEED ap, you can still maintain your credential as a legacy LEED ap whether you get a free opt-in now (then sign on CMP and take a specialty exam) or after 2 years you choose to opt-in, or choose to opt-out.

I checked the CMP program offered through GBCI web site.
I am not very happy about the courses approved by Education Reviewing Bodies and its prices. The most of presentations have prices even with product presentations. That is not the case with AIA (American Institute of Architects) provided programs. Especially, most of product presentations are free to learn about because it is a good marketing ad for the company.

Regards to a legacy LEED ap, I found a good post as below. See the post named by David with a date on August 3 2009. (have to scroll down a bit)
According to the post, it you are a legacy LEED ap, you can still maintain your credential as a legacy LEED ap whether you get a free opt-in now (then sign on CMP and take a specialty exam) or after 2 years you choose to opt-in, or choose to opt-out.

I checked the CMP program offered through GBCI web site.
I am not very happy about the courses approved by Education Reviewing Bodies and its prices. The most of presentations have prices even with product presentations. That is not the case with AIA (American Institute of Architects) provided programs. Especially, most of product presentations are free to learn about because it is a good marketing ad for the company.

USGBC’s intention for education requirement is good. However, in considering most professionals who are willing to work with sustainable design concept are already obliged to continuing education until retirement and those continuing education are more and more gearing toward green conscious design, and steering committee members of USGBC are one of those professionals, it should have been better if they handle this “credential maintenance program” integrated with those from other professional organizations.

As a professional, I hope the organization like USGBC encourage environmentally friendly design on the cause of right-thing-to-do and discourage the sustainable design becoming too much commercialized.

I also think that for the credential maintenance, it should not cost a fortune, nor consume too much time to an average working person. In terms of qualification for LEED exam I am wondering why someone has not worked on LEED project is not qualified for the LEED exam. Someone with this much of green enthusiasm should be more encouraged to take a test. If one can not meet the requirement at the end of two years, there should be a grace period to recover, not stripping off the credential right in the face.
I hope USGBC look into all these matters.

December 4, 2008 - 4:41 am video: "This session charts the path for a credentialing evolution that supports LEED 2009 and introduces some exciting new changes that will enhance this important credential its role in market transformation. We will also describe the role of GBCI in the LEED certification process."

February 17, 2009 - 2:49 am

Is there someone who can explain to me why one has to become a LEED-AP?
All final credits will be judged by the USGBC, a LEED-AP cannot influence that. Furthermore a LEED-AP only has to be able to memorize the program. Implementation is a totally different story.
I am in sustainable engineering in the Netherlands and worldwide for over 25 years now. Unfortunately many of the European achievements need changes in LEED-NC to be rewarded. ASHRAE and ANSI describe a design path that has been left in Europe in the 1980's. I would like to suggest reading the article in HPAC dd. 20/02/09 called "High efficiency radiant cooling" and compare that design with ASHRAE.
A design like that cannot even be calculated by the prescribed software.
Effectively with hybrid systems combined with geothermal practices like that energy savings up to 70% compared to baseline ASHRAE are feasible and documented.

February 17, 2009 - 2:13 pm

Janwillem, I would like to read the radiant cooling article and went to the magazine to find it. I could not. Can you give me a url for the article? I would love to see how they deal with the condensation associated with radiant cooling.

March 31, 2009 - 8:14 pm

Carrie, the USGBC has two courses in their curriculum that will likely cover the content needed to prepare for the Green Associate exam.

The two courses are the 100-level "Green Building Basics and LEED" and 200-level "LEED Core Concepts and Strategies". Both are available in the classroom, and the first one is presently available online. I would not be surprised if the second will be offered online as well. Together, these should provide the information needed for the LEED Green Associate credential.

More information on the courses are available on pages from the main USGBC Education page:

March 31, 2009 - 9:11 am

I am interested in knowing about the LEED Green Associate credential. I am a manufacturer's representative for products with an emphasis on Green design, The associate credential would certainly be beneficial. How do I find out about this and on-line courses needed to pass Tier I?

September 25, 2009 - 7:49 am


Read the Credentialing Maintenance Program (CMP) manual. It states that only FIVE of your credits can come from self-learing sources (webinars, things like you would probably be most interested in).

I also have a question into GBCI on the following contradiction. The CMP manual states that if you don't maintain your CEs in your two year period, you are stripped of your LEED AP (+Specialty) status COMPLETELY. You are no longer a LEED AP of any kind. However, the Enrollment Manual states that a LEED AP (+Specialty) that does not maintain their credits is stripped of their SPECIALTY credential only and are returned to the status of LEED AP without specialty. Then I guess you can either try again at the speciailty, or you just remain a LEED AP without specialty in perpetuity.

Of course, I have received NO answer on this.

This whole thing is a mess. I am very disappointed in how this is being handled so far.

September 25, 2009 - 7:19 am

That is my concern too. I have to maintain 18 credit hours per year for my architect license and AIA. So I am hesitating to take a new LEEDap exam considering additional 15 credit hours per year for the LEEDap.
I am wondering if any affordable programs are easily available not requiring extensive travelling.
I am not in States, so distance -learning programs should be available.
I am also wondering if anyone considers the redundancy of continuing education requirement with AIA related with sustainability.
I only hope all of issues above is resolved soon.

November 26, 2008 - 4:56 am

The LEED Associate credential actually sounds perfect for what I do, which is master planning. The focus of the AP credential on construction has kept me from taking the exam, but I am still conversant in many of the areas and it would be a real benefit to me and my clients.

November 25, 2008 - 10:53 am

Miriam, LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) has been refashioned as LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EB: O&M). It looks like GBCI is taking a more concise approach to recognizing LEED APs with this specialty, by calling them LEED AP O+M. The specialty exam on that subject will be launched in 2009.

November 25, 2008 - 10:50 am

What happens to LEED EB for Existing Buildings?

November 23, 2008 - 6:38 pm

I just took the exam this last week, and passed the new commerical construction test. Does this mean that I can only be certified to do new construction and not homes? Would I have to sit for homes too?

November 24, 2008 - 12:44 pm

Anna, as I learned (see the article update), you will likely be placed into the LEED AP BD+C designation once you opt in to the new system. This simply reflects your principal area of expertise and does not limit you to NC projects. I supposed you could take the LEED AP Homes specialty exam and receive that designation as well, but that's purely optional.

November 24, 2008 - 10:12 am

It is just amazing how USGBC tries to solve a problem, and creates 5 new ones. So there are now 65,000 LEED AP's, wow. Just like there are 65,000 Santa's getting ready to march on the nations' malls, which one is for real... One of the best things GBCI could do is provide a clear(er) means to re-certify a core AP group so clients actually may have confidence their LEED AP knows what they are doing. A LEED AP Fellow is a good idea, but it is not like green building professionals need more ego-gratification if you follow me...

July 29, 2009 - 6:10 am

So the continuing education requirements for a LEED AP who opts into the credentialing system (I would become a LEED AP BD+C I guess) are on a continuous, 2-year cycle? Very similar to the same process that I am required to follow for continuing education to maintain my PE license in several states?

I guess my greatest concern is the availability and cost of ACCEPTABLE continuing educational sources. I'm already obligated to (in most cases) 15 credits per year on average to maintain my PE license...however none of these credits would likely apply to LEED CE I would now be up to about 30 credits per year to maintain all of my registrations.

February 26, 2009 - 8:22 am

I am confused about phase out period. If I register for the old exam BEFORE March 31st, take it and fail it - can I do a re-take under old exam style before May? Or at that point am I out of luck, and then need to take new style exam and register for the new one?

February 26, 2009 - 8:53 am

Diane, you would need to confirm this with GBCI, but you would be out of luck and would have to wait a couple or a few months for the new exam. That exam will also be quite different, so your studying for the current exam would be somewhat out of date. You may want to consider, if GBCI's system allows this, registering for two sittings of the exam, so that if you fail the first, you have a backup. I think you can cancel within a certain time period and get most of your money back.

July 28, 2009 - 11:16 am

GBCI has now announced that you can skip the CE requirement if you retest the LEED AP exam every two years. That might be easier for some people to fit in.