How do I/my company become LEED certified?
October 28, 2010 2:55 PM   Subscribe

How do I (and possibly my company?) become LEED certified?

My boss would like for me to become LEED certified. Ideally, he would like for our entire development company to be LEED certified. He would even like for our individual projects to be LEED certified moving forward. I am in charge of learning about this.

I need to know:

1) How do I become a LEED certified professional?

2) Can an entire company be LEED certified?
a) If so, how do we do that?
b) If not, how do we use my LEED certification on a company-wide level?

3) Do individual developments each get certified?
a) How is this done?
b) Is this dependent upon my individual certification?

4) Are there any other relevant points I am neglecting?

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by jefficator to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1) Well projects are LEED certified. People are credentialed. To do that you need to pass the LEED exam. It now comes in two parts. The first is green associates and the second is rating system specific (leed new construction, leed core and shell, etc.). If you work in the industry that should qualify you to take the test. Its mostly memorization, what credit does what, how are they interrelated, and so forth. There are classes, USBGC has study guides. See more here.

b)We use LEED certification as a marking tool. Hey look at us we have 30 LEED AP on staff, we know green.

3) Each individual building generally gets certified individually. I have no idea how this works at a residential level for "neighborhood development".
a) Take a look at the USGBC website. Talk to your architects and engineer. It helps a lot to begin the process early. There are companies thats specialize in managing the LEED requirements/paperwork. You should talk to one in you area.
b)There is a point that you receive for having at least one person involved in the project LEED certified. But generally someone involved is already certified.
posted by ihadapony at 3:37 PM on October 28, 2010

In general, there are two kinds of certifications: certification of a person (e.g., you) and credentialing of a building/project (e.g., the places that send out press releases saying that they're platinum certified or something).

Here's a link to how you become a LEED certified professional. Basically, you need to start by proving that you either work on a potentially LEED-certified project or work in a sustainable field before you're eligible for the LEED Green Associate exam. LEED Fellows are apparently a new advanced-level thing that require at least 8 years of certification and nomination and all that jazz.

Multiple exams exist within the professional credentialing process to demonstrate your knowledge. In the LEED AP group, some are more suited to residential construction; some are more suited to commercial construction. There's one for neighborhood development, and there's one for operating and maintaining existing structures. There are also interior-specific credentials.

There are different areas of practice, or at least different types of people who get certification. Maybe that's the kind of thing that might be useful to look into when you think about how your company could use it: how can your architects, interior designers, HVAC people, etc. get the most out of this kind of training?

Becoming LEED-certified is a long-term investment. It's great that you get certified, but you should commit to taking continuing education hours and reupping your certification. It's not just a diploma that you can get once and hang on your wall.

The best thing you can probably do is network with others in your field who know more about this. They can tell you how easy/hard it was, what the pitfalls were, how much it makes a difference to their firm, etc. That's probably the first place to start.
posted by Madamina at 3:41 PM on October 28, 2010

For context I work in quality assurance, understanding certifications, accreditation and standards is my business, and I've done some investigation of LEED because it is a skill set I might be interested in picking up at some point. This being said, I'm not any sort of an expert in LEED (yet).

My understanding is that LEED is a standard that can be applied to 1) building projects certifications and 2) professional credentials for individuals. The LEED system is developed by the US Green Building Council and certifications and accreditation are administered by the Green Building Certification Institute.

I do not believe there is such a thing as a company-wide LEED certification. Organizations can become members of the USGBC. Credentials are mostly exam-based but require either prior experience with LEED certified projects or education on the LEED system. There are educational resources at the USGBC website. Maintenance of these credentials requires continuing education.

Case studies at the USGBC website might help understanding the system and the process of project certification under it as well.
posted by nanojath at 4:04 PM on October 28, 2010

All the links you need are above, but I just wanted to point out in regards to (3) that a development or building would really have to be designed and built with the LEED requirements in mind in order to become certified, it's not a label that can be slapped on after the fact. (Well, unless the building was VERY green to begin with, or undergoing an extensive renovation - but if your company was doing this type of thing they'd likely already be pretty familiar with LEED . . . )
posted by ella wren at 4:09 PM on October 28, 2010

You might also look into the Sustainable Sites Initiative, which is more geared towards the sites being developed than the structures built on those sites.
posted by Red Loop at 5:52 PM on October 28, 2010

People are credentialed.

In general, there are two kinds of certifications: certification of a person (e.g., you) and credentialing of a building/project (e.g., the places that send out press releases saying that they're platinum certified or something).

No. People get accredited. Developments get certified. This might actually be a question on the exam. Companies cannot be certified or accredited, and any company that says it is is totally full of shit (i.e. Doormerica, and some sound isolation company out of Las Vegas).

Your company can affiate itself with LEED by becoming a member of the USGBC. Once you do that, you get to put their logo on your website and advertising materials.

To become accredited yourself, you register with the GBCI (Green Buildng Certfication Institute), which is basically an arm of the USGBC. You register with them as a candidate, which basically authorizes you to take the test. I don't remember if you sign up for a test date at that time. The tests are administered through a 3rd party testing organization (in my area, it's Prometric). You can arrange a test date through them. Signing up for the test costs around $400 (this info is 1.5 years old).

There's a lot of material covered in the test, so you may want to get the LEED reference guide, which basically spells out everything necessary for a development to get certified, as well as information about why those items ar important. I tested in New Construction, but they keep developing more and more specialized divisions to it, so that you can be accredited in houses, interiors, tenant improvements, etc. As others have said, having an accredited person as an integral member of the project team gets you a point in LEED, but a point isnt much. The system was revamped last year, but prior to that, you'd need at least 26 points just to be "Certified" which is the lowest level. "Platinum" would require over 60 points.

To get your project certified, you basically look through the appropriate reference guide and pick which credits (which earn you points) could possibly apply to your project. There are some that will sort of cancel each other out, some that will be synergistic, and some that will be impossible to achieve just based on your project site. As others have said, it helps to start the process as early as possible in the life of the project, and involve as many players as possible. Many credits can really only be effectively monitored by a contractor, MPE, or other specialized field. At some point, you register your project with the GBCI, and you have the option of an early submittal to try to get some points out of the way (although no points are actually awarded until completion - it's more of a progress check). Basically, it's like another building permit submittal where you'll say "we're earning these points!" and they go through and check your work to make sure that you actually do.
posted by LionIndex at 9:42 PM on October 28, 2010

Further info:
Products produced by companies are not "certified" or "accredited" for LEED, although using certain products may contribute to your project earning a LEED credit. Some manufacturers will erroneously advertise their products as "LEED certified", and these claims should not be believed. Many manufacturers will have information on their websites about what credits their products contribute to earning, but these are usually somewhat optimistic.

Purchasing a LEED reference guide will run you somewhere around $200. If your company becomes a member of the USGBC, employees of the company can get a discount on the guide, but you'll have to weigh that out versus the cost of becoming a USGBC member. If your intention is to have a large segment of the company get accredited, the savings on the cost of the guide may outweigh the cost of membership, although you could probably just get a couple guides for your reference library and have employees use those.

I'm going off of LEED NC 2.2, which has been superceded, but LEED credits are broadly broken down into a number of categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design. Sustainable Sites credits generally deal with site selection (not building on wetlands/farmland/endangered species habitat, etc.), connectivity to public transportation, reduction of the "heat island" effect, and other things like that. Water Efficiency is pretty much what it says on the tin, where you reduce the development's water use versus a baseline model of the same development. Energy and Atmosphere covers energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse/ozone depleting chemicals. Materials and Resources credits deal with using existing building materials (i.e. adaptive re-use of an existing building), using materials with recycled content, and using locally sourced materials (this one is frequently misunderstood by manufacturers - if you have a project in Southern California and you're buying wood products from a local manufacturer, it doesn't count for that credit if they get their wood from Georgia). Indoor Environmental Quality credits deal with off-gassing materials, lighting, views, and thermal comfort. Innovation in design credits are generally open-ended, where you can obtain credit if your project has an additional environmental benefit not covered in one of the other credits, or if you substantially exceed requirements for other credits.

Given the available credits, it's pretty difficult to have a project be LEED certified if all you plan on doing is just buying certain products instead of others. The system definitely rewards projects that are actually designed to be environmentally sound from the very start, in terms of site selection, building orientation, and reduction of reliance on standard building systems.
posted by LionIndex at 9:36 AM on October 29, 2010

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