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Knock, Knock, Time to Deal with Your LEED AP Credential: No Joke!

ElizabethPowers-web Yes it’s true; you can stay a LEED AP forever, but Elizabeth Powers, CSBA, LEED BD+C and ID+C with more than a decade of green building consulting under her belt has some news for you.

Your LEED AP credential may be a lasting legacy; but if you don’t update it, it may just end up being obsolete. As predicted, LEED 2012 has changed the LEED AP credit to require a LEED AP with the most appropriate specialty. In addition, there is a new requirement that two (2) individuals in primary disciplines on the project be LEED APs of specialty types or Green Associates. From O’Brien & Company’s perspective, we have already seen several RFPs that require a LEED AP with the appropriate specialty on the design team. Professional firms in primary disciplines that do LEED work will probably want a mix of credentials among the professional staff. If you are going to upgrade, it is time to plan.

All current LEED APs will need to decide on one of three options by fall 2011. The individual enrollment windows given to LEED APs begin to close in the summer, so be sure to log into GBCI My Credentials and see when your decision point is. The three options are:

  • Do nothing and remain a “legacy” LEED AP; or
  • Enroll through testing; or
  • Enroll through prescriptive credentialing maintenance.

The third option means you don’t have to test, but do have to complete the now required continuing education hours (CE hours) following a prescriptive path to assure your knowledge level is similar to those taking the new exam. Folks who enroll through testing must take the same number of hours within the same broad categories without the prescriptive requirements. The difference is the flexibility in maintenance education choices.

If you do not enroll by the end of your enrollment window to take a specialty exam or follow the prescription credentialing maintenance program, you will need to take the tests for both the Green Associate and chosen LEED AP specialty to earn an upgraded LEED credential. As a side note, the testing options are sometimes seen as sticks to beat you into taking CE hours, but can actually be a really good, flexible option. If you are reasonably comfortable with taking tests, there are great LEED exam prep classes available, including O’Brien & Company’s and many online resources to help prepare you. Studying for the exam might actually bring you more up to speed on the latest developments in your specialty, and might be easier to manage and schedule as opposed to taking CE hours.

As you consider your options, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you need or want to upgrade, or stay a legacy LEED AP? It is time to decide.
  • How quickly do you need the designation? Enrolling in prescriptive credentialing maintenance is the fastest way to get an updated specialization.
  • Do you want to switch Specializations? If so, you will need to test in.
  • Would you prefer not to have to test in? If so, enroll in the prescriptive credentialing maintenance.
  • What are the time, financial, and professional development considerations you will employ in mapping out a credentialing maintenance plan? See the next section for some tips getting started.

O’Brien & Company has just posted a FREE webinar on obtaining and maintaining your LEED Credential that talks about picking the best approach for you: Plotting Your LEED Credentialing Maintenance Plan: Making it Cheap, Easy, and Fun. Once you’ve plotted your options, you’ll want to check out the GBCI Credentialing Maintenance Program (CMP) Wizard to begin implementing your plan.

So, if you do upgrade, then what? Whether you test or go the prescriptive credentialing maintenance path we suggest the following critical path for planning how to accumulate CEs. First, pick the low hanging fruit:

  1. If you have the opportunity at your firm, get assigned responsibility for a variety of credits on LEED Online, or be the LEED Administrator on a project to earn up to 10 LEED-specific hours while working.
  2. Attend the great free and low-cost educational events offered by your local USGBC chapter and/or green building groups. In the Northwest, Cascadia Green Building Council, the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild and local professional and trade associations all offer a roster of classes on relevant topics. This can qualify you for up to 5 hours of “Live Instruction.”
  3. Self-study on topics where you have gaps in completing your prescriptive CE hours or special interest. This qualifies you for up to 5 hours.
  4. For owners, designers, and contractors more experienced in sustainability and LEED you can teach courses for up to 15 hrs and/or publish articles for up to 10 hrs.

If you been able knock out all the above you are nearly there. For the remainder you can complete professional course work through an approved education provider. Visit the USGBC Course Catalog to search for options. Taking the Sustainable Building Advisor program, which is available in many locations around the country, can earn you all the non-LEED specific, hours you need.Cmpplanningtool  Again, local green building organizations and professional and trade associations may offer approved courses.

Finally, O’Brien & Company is an approved provider and will be rolling out a series of qualifying   webinars this spring and summer at its Building Capacity Marketplace. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed of new programs. To help create your own cheap, easy, and fun plan, check out the O’Brien & Company CMP Planning Tool.

Elizabeth Powers is Principal/Owner of O'Brien & Company, a mission-based firm in its 20th year focused on achieving sustainability in the built environment. Powers leads the green building consulting services team and is a regular contributor to the Building Capacity blog. O'Brien & Company publishes the blog as well as a monthly newsletter. For the most current edition of the newsletter, please see

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One Response to “Knock, Knock, Time to Deal with Your LEED AP Credential: No Joke!”

  1. Elizabeth Powers

    Hello everyone,
    One nuance I would like to add to this article is that you can contact the GBCI before enrolling via prescriptive CMP if you feel your default specialty is no longer appropriate and request a switch.
    Good luck!

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