LEED Accreditation – Fad or Necessity?

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? join-the-discussionWhat do you think?

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

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  1. I agree with Nathan that having a LEED AP after your name doens’t mean the person has the skills to design a sustainable building. Just think of the thousands of new architecture graduates, who passed the LEED exam before they went for the ARE? They did this because the qualifications for taking the exam are minimal. It takes more time and experience to pass the ARE. The LEED exams are all about the point systems and how to register a project, etc.

    It is sad that so many employers these days would rather hire a LEED accredited person, with 2-5 years experience, over a person with 10-15 years experience and a architect’s license. I wonder why more people aren’t complaining? It is because people are afraid. It is a very sad state of affairs for the business of architecture.

  2. The LEED Accreditation is a benchmark of a person’s training and knowledge. I hope that it becomes as recognized, and as valued a credential as is the Project Management Professional (PMP) cert is for project managers. Similar to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the USGBC has undertaken the task to accumlate sound practice and industry knowedge toward a singular goal. For the USGBC that goal is environmental sustainability and operating efficiency.

    The LEED Certification provides a well thought out template for adding sustinability to any project. A LEED certified building qualifies for a number of Federal, State, and Utility incentives that an uncertified building will not. Without serious consideration of the full scope of LEED costs/benefits, the full potential for the the building’s value and ROI will not be fully accounted for.

    Given the major environmental and economic impact any commercial buiding will have on our society and ecology it is up to the project owner, architect, and engineer to make the most informed decision as to the true value of their building and it’s impact on society. Working with an experienced LEED AP can make this happen.

  3. We can’t argue that there has been an exponential growth in the green buildings sector, and this remarkable momentum, signified by the international success of the LEED rating systems, will not come to an end anytime soon. Companies that have adopted LEED building standards are currently reaping the benefits of the increased awareness. What remains is for us all to fulfill our duty as good corporate citizens to do the right thing and contribute toward a more sustainable model of the built environment.

  4. I definitely agree with these guys. One can design buildings and apply principles for sustainability even without LEED accreditation but it helps to understand the principles of design with sustainability if one is LEED certified.

    Some people may see LEED AP certification to be another acronym on their business cards, but let’s face the truth, it gives additional credit to an individual who passed the certification.

  5. I have been practicing architecture for the past 22 years. In all my years, I haven’t seen a cause that has really taken on the shape that this one movement has. Yes, the subject of sustainability is really important. We should all try and make our buildings more sustainable, and “green”. LEED is an option, but it is not necessary to have an efficient building. Some of the credits being earned are simply too costly to implement.

    What we need is a common sense approach with realistic applications that really provide energy efficient buildings. Applying proper site planning, floor planning, building systems, and elevations that provide harmony, scale and pleasing aesthetics.

    The LEED AP test – is testing you on their process and credits. Not on applying sound design – in basic fundamentals. You don’t need a LEED AP designation – to have solid design with energy efficient buildings. Apply basic common sense principals for energy efficiency, and your clients will still be pleased – and you will save them even more money, on the initial building costs as well as their operations.

    I took the LEED exam, missed it by one. Learned a lot along the way – there are other exams that are better, and provide more thorough study material – based on design and principals, and less filled with a convoluted numbering credit system and memorizing code references or standards to pass. I am not sold on the LEED AP + GA or NB&C . . . process is still evolving.

  6. Very interesting points you bring up here. I think you can design for sustainability without having LEED accreditation. However, there are a variety of benefits to having LEED certification or at least having a LEED consultant helping with the project. It may be another acronym to put on a business card, but those who have achieved this status certainly have more knowledge and experience in the industry than others who do not. The interest in sustainable design has dramatically increased in the last few years; thus, I believe LEED accreditation will become even more important, if not second nature, for the industry in years to come.

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