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LEED Conundrum

Time is running out for enrollment in GBCI’s credential maintenance program, but many are still confused.

July 1, 2010

By Tristan Roberts

When the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) launched the Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) in fall 2009, it gave existing or “legacy” LEED APs a choice. They had two years to opt in to the CMP and enjoy the cachet of a new LEED AP+ “specialty” credential. Or they could let the opt-in period pass and retain their regular LEED AP credential, while also avoiding a $50 biennial fee and 30 hours of continuing education (CE) requirements.

LEED Conundrum
Illustraton by Andy Martin
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With that two-year period almost halfway over (it ends in September 2011), many LEED APs are hearing the clock tick and trying to figure out where they fit into the new program. People who are not already LEED APs have to pass the new exam to qualify. Their options are to sign up for the LEED AP+ credential, or the new “Green Associate” credential, for people who want to demonstrate familiarity with LEED but won’t be working directly on LEED projects.

As the sustainability leader for Anshen + Allen and its 75-plus LEED APs, Mara Baum, AIA, has taken responsibility to “guinea pig” the new system and provide pointers to her colleagues. Baum sees legacy LEED APs falling into two camps. The first are sustainability leaders like her who are immersed in LEED projects and committees. For this group, staying up to date on LEED is part of the job, and “the continuing education requirements are little more than what we would be doing anyway.” Opting in is an easy choice. On the other side, Baum sees a large group of professionals who for one reason or another may not encounter CE opportunities in the course of their work, or for whom demonstrating that they’re completely up to date with the specialty credential may not be necessary. Baum predicts that many in this group will not opt in to the new system. They won’t lose their LEED AP credential, and if their situation changes in the future and they want the specialty, they could always take the exam.

Many professionals fall between those two groups, and may want to opt in to the specialty credential but will need to go through extra work and expense. For them, Baum suggests waiting to see if they find themselves in a situation that earns them the required learning hours. “One reason I might recommend someone opt in now is if they’re currently working on a LEED project or about to attend a convention with a lot of CMP options,” says Baum.

Baum also points out that there are plenty of cheap ways to earn credits, like authoring a published article or performing committee or volunteer work (half-hour per meeting, more for leadership). Baum also recommends the “Netflix” approach, by reporting self-study hours from watching sustainability-related movies. (“Blue Vinyl” is on Baum’s recommended list.) There are many options for earning hours, including taking a CE exam in this magazine, but there are limits on how many of the 30 hours may come from any one source. GBCI’s “Credential Maintenance Program Guide,” at www.GBCI.org spells it out.

Once opted in, LEED APs must tackle distribution requirements of the initial two-year reporting period. Since legacy LEED APs can skip the newer, tougher exam, GBCI requires them to spread their initial 30 hours across different topics such as water management, indoor environment, and energy—topics requiring expertise to pass the exam.

LEED APs can log on to “My Credentials” on www.GBCI.org to see their status, including the enrollment period, and to enroll in a specialty credential via testing or continuing education. For more of Baum’s advice, a recorded presentation is available at www.LEEDuser.com/CMP.

This article appeared in the July 2010 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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