January 27, 2009
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

This year the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) is launching a new version of LEED. Instead of streamlining the process, or making the system more clear to professionals seeking accreditation for themselves or their buildings — not to mention to the clients — the new version is sure to create many levels of confusion.

First of all, titles will change. Individuals who are already accredited professionals (APs) will become Legacy LEED APs, and unless they change their status they will no longer appear as active LEED APs. Individuals who have passed the exam but are not presently working on a LEED project will be called LEED Green Associates, while those who are working on a LEED project will be designated LEED APs. There is a category of LEED AP Fellows for those who are “distinguished by their years of experience,” to be determined by a peer review that is not outlined on the website. One of the differences between LEED GAs and LEED APs is that the latter will a have higher application fee (new in 2009), a higher exam fee, and double the number of required continuing education hours (also new in 2009). I, personally, do not understand a need for a distinction between professionals who are working on LEED projects and those who are not. Everyone should have the same requirements, pay the same fees, take the same test, and benefit from the program universally. It’s bad enough the exam will be more difficult, claiming a pass rate of only 20% compared to the current 34%.

Secondly, a new point system has been created that is weighted using what the GBCI calls “Life Cycle Assessment Indicators.” Priority will be given to Climate Change, as it is currently the most pressing issue. In the future (new versions will launch biennially), if environmental and societal priorities shift, so will the point system. In addition, local chapters may allow for bonus credits based on issues unique to their locales. For a building to obtain certification the scale has increased from 69 to 100 points — certified projects require 40 points, silver 50, gold 60, and platinum 80.

Since the system will keep changing, I understand the need for LEED APs, or LEED GAs, to complete continuing education requirements. Plus, I feel it is important to stay up to date on new developments in the industry. However, with the new AIA sustainability requirements for CEUs, the ARE exams changing to reflect more green issues, the new building code taking a cue from the more environmentally sound International Building Code, not to mention other local initiatives, I wonder why the GBCI needs to add another layer of red tape to the process. How come the GBCI did not collaborate more closely with the AIA (as far as I know) when coming up with continuing education requirements?

Overall, I am not averse to change. What I do protest, though, is making the process more complicated, much more expensive, and ultimately more difficult for those dedicated to sustainable design.


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