The Advantages of Earning a LEED AP Credential
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Understanding LEED 2009Pt. 2: LEED Points and Credits: What's the Difference?Pt. 3: This PagePt. 4: Finding the Most Applicable Version of LEED
As LEED’s popularity has grown, many more architects, consultants and even facility executives have made it their business to become experts on LEED. You may have noticed the increasing presence of “LEED AP” behind people’s names in the place usually reserved for professional affiliations like AIA, CSI or PE. A LEED Accredited Professional, of which there are now more than 50,000, is a person who has passed a test that covers green building knowledge in general and LEED specifically. According to the Green Building Certification Institute, the USGBC-spin-off organization that administers the LEED AP program, “the LEED AP credential indicates that the professional has the knowledge and skills to facilitate the LEED certification process.”
Popeck puts it similarly: “A LEED AP helps streamline the certification process,” he says. “It’s not a ‘LEED inspector.’ Instead, the LEED AP should offer advice on sustainable solutions early in the process, so it’s someone more than just a person to help with the paperwork.”
Currently, it is possible to earn a LEED AP credential for three rating systems: existing buildings, commercial interiors and new construction. For facility executives, no matter what version of the LEED rating system they’re working with, there can be many benefits to becoming a LEED expert, rather than relying on a third party.
“Familiarity with LEED will allow facility executives to better understand why bamboo flooring was installed or why task lights were used in offices,” says Paul Todd Merrill, senior project engineer and director of sustainable construction with Clayco, a real estate development, design and construction firm with several LEED-certified buildings under its belt. “Additionally, having a LEED expert on the facilities staff can guarantee the ongoing effectiveness of the building throughout its life-cycle. A facility executive that is a LEED AP will bring ideas to the table that the architect and engineer would never have thought of.”
But it’s certainly not just the expertise in LEED that leads to environmental and economic gains. The gains come from using LEED as a framework for implementing a holistic plan that takes into account how buildings systems work together. If the project is new construction, LEED can help focus a project team’s environmental ideas to develop specific goals. For instance, if a project team is interested in alternative energy, but isn’t sure about the best way to get the most bang for the buck, LEED can help guide the conversation on whether to generate energy on-site or to purchase renewable energy certificates or offsets. If the latter, LEED provides guidance on good places to begin research — the Center for Resource Solutions Green-e certification, in this case.
If the building has been around for awhile, and you’re looking for a guide on how to implement environmentally responsible facility management strategies, LEED-EB: O&M is a framework for establishing baselines for facility metrics, as well as for instituting a strategic plan for ongoing measurement and verification. Some facility executives have held fast to the notion that it is a tool only for architects and designers. USGBC has worked hard to try to change that perception, even explicitly spelling out that the LEED-EB is now for “Operations and Maintenance” when they released the newest version of LEED-EB last October. USGBC says LEED-EB: O&M is less bureaucratic and easier to use, without compromising its stringent environmental standards.
“Because the existing building market is so big, there was a lot of excitement back in 2004 to get a rating system out as soon as possible,” says Scot Horst, chair of the LEED Steering Committee. “So the rating system itself was part of the hindrance to acceptance. With LEED-EB: O&M, we looked at our mistakes and why LEED-EB was not adopted as quickly as LEED-NC. With LEED-EB: O&M, we think we’ve addressed the previous problems.”