What's New With LEED Professional Credentials

March 1, 2010
Green Building Certification Institute adds associate and specialty credentials

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Professional Credentials program is the industry's agreed-upon way of identifying professionals who demonstrate ongoing excellence in green-building practice, providing certainty and relevance for the marketplace. The credentials are designed to meet two goals. First, they recognize green-building expertise and create incentives for professionals to maintain and advance their knowledge and skills. Additionally, they provide employers, policymakers, and other stakeholders with assurances of a professional's current level of competence. LEED credentials are the marks of the most qualified, educated, and influential green-building professionals.

LEED credentialing has evolved significantly since 1998, when the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced the LEED Accredited Professional (AP) designation. A major portion of that evolution has occurred over the last two years, since the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) took over administration of LEED credentials. GBCI was created in 2008 to provide an additional buffer between the USGBC, which develops the LEED rating systems, and the certification and credentialing processes. In 2009, GBCI launched an expanded suite of LEED professional credentials, adding a specialized LEED AP credential and introducing LEED Green Associate. GBCI also has implemented new eligibility requirements for credentials as well as credential-maintenance requirements to ensure LEED Professionals have the latest knowledge and understanding of green-building practices.

Three Types of Credentials

LEED Green Associate. For professionals who want to demonstrate green-building expertise in non-technical fields of practice, GBCI offers the LEED Green Associate credential. A LEED Green Associate demonstrates a core understanding of green-building practices and principles and the LEED green-building certification program to support sustainable design, construction, and operations. The LEED Green Associate exam is a computer-based, multiple-choice test.

LEED AP with specialty. LEED-AP-with-specialty credentials build upon the original LEED AP credential by adding the ability to specialize in a particular segment of the green-building industry. Becoming a LEED AP with specialty is a two-step process: Candidates must pass the Green Associate exam to demonstrate general knowledge and pass a second exam aligning with their area of practice. The two tests can be taken at once, or a candidate can become a LEED Green Associate first and take the LEED AP specialty exam at a later date.

Specialties demonstrate focused expertise in a specific area of green-building practice, signifying a depth of understanding of specific LEED rating systems grouped by the building type or life-cycle stage they address. The LEED AP specialty tracks are Operations + Maintenance, Homes, Building Design + Construction, Interior Design + Construction, and Neighborhood Development.

LEED Fellow. The LEED Fellow credential is in development. GBCI envisions LEED Fellows to be a class of professionals distinguished by their years of experience and contributions to advancing green-building knowledge and practice.

Credential Maintenance Program

The LEED Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) ensures that LEED professional credentials continue to signify innovation and excellence among green-building practitioners. It is designed to meet the industry's demands of currency, relevance, and forward thought — establishing a pathway for continuous professional development and progress.

The CMP was created in response to feedback from more than 130,000 LEED APs that the LEED credential must remain current, flexible, and as dynamic as the green-building industry itself. The program serves as a market differentiator for many professionals who want to increase their area of expertise.

Current LEED APs who wish to use the new designation of LEED AP with specialty are required to enroll in the CMP and maintain their credentials by earning continuing-education (CE) hours. LEED APs must earn 30 CE hours, six of which must be LEED-specific, every two years. LEED Green Associates must earn 15 hr biennially, three of which must be LEED-specific.

For more information on the CMP, visit GBCI's Website at www.gbci.org.


A greener, more sustainable economy requires a new generation of professionals who are invested in generating and building upon their expertise in green building. The diversity of expanded LEED Professional Credentials drives excellence by providing a commonly understood benchmark of knowledge across all relevant industry disciplines, technical and non-technical alike. The maintenance of these credentials through CE hours ensures that green-building professionals remain competitive and relevant within the marketplace, securing their position as driving forces in an increasingly progressive global economy.

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Erin Emery is a communications specialist for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Washington, D.C. The USGBC is a non-profit organization “working to make green buildings available to everyone within a generation.” The organization is “committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for the United States through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.”

For previous Engineering Green Buildings columns, visit www.hpac.com.