Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification & Accreditation

LEED is a green building rating system. It is opt-in and credit-based. Projects pursuing LEED certification must meet a variety of minimum requirements and some prerequisites within several categories. They are then free to pick and choose ‘credits’ within these categories, each one awarding a certain number of points towards certification. Projects are free to choose how many credits they want to pursue, and what level of certification they want to achieve. This rating system is becoming increasingly more common (UMASS, for example, has committed to achieving LEED Silver on all new campus projects).

Important distinction: Buildings get certified, people do not. People become accredited (obtain a credential) signifying a certain level of knowledge about LEED certification.


LEED Green Associate

The LEED Green Associate credential signifies a base level of knowledge about the LEED rating system, and is fairly easy to get. GreenCE has a free course that will walk you through the rating system and prepare you for the test.
Cost: $200. With a membership (use UMass Amherst), it drops to $100.

LEED AP with Specialty

The LEED AP with Specialty credential shows specific knowledge of a certain rating system within LEED, and is harder to get. We recommend using one of the prep packages offered by GBES for this – if you get an internship, see if your company has a subscription to GBES!
Cost: $350. With a membership (use UMass Amherst), it drops to $250.

How to Become LEED Accredited

  1. Make a USGBC account (it’s free). Go to the USGBC website under the “Membership” tab and search for UMass Amherst. Join as a UMass Amherst member and you’ll get access to free educational resources (under Education tab at the top).
  2. On your account page, click ‘Credentials’ and select ‘Overview’. Scroll down to see the various credential exams offered and their prices. The price displayed will end up being higher than what you pay – the student discount gets applied later! 
  3. Pay for the credential above – I personally would recommend doing the Green Associate and AP with Specialty in one sitting, as studying for the AP with Specialty will prepare you for the Green Associate. 
  4. After paying for your exam, you’ll be directed to a ProProctor website to schedule it. Due to COVID-19, exams are only available remotely at the moment. I recommend scheduling a month or more in advance to ensure you get the day and time you want.
  5. Begin preparing for your test, and good luck!

PROTIP: If you work for a construction management company that does LEED projects, (in my experience) people aren’t a huge fan of LEED mainly due to the paperwork that goes with it. Knowing how to handle documentation and taking it on can help you stand out! Even without a credential, focus on the following credits (in USGBC’s credit library):

  • Materials and Resources Category:
    • Building Product Disclosure and Optimization: Environmental Product Declarations
    • Building Product Disclosure and Optimization: Sourcing of Raw Materials
    • Building Product Disclosure and Optimization: Material Ingredients
  • Indoor Environmental Quality Category:
    • Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan
  • Credential Maintenance:
    • UMASS’s membership with USGBC provides access to some courses you can use towards your continuing education requirements.
    • GBES (Green Building Education Service) offers many credential maintenance packages, but they can be expensive.
    • GreenCE offers many free courses for continuing education requirements for a variety of sustainability-related certifications.

Further reading: https://www.thearchitectsguide.com/blog/how-to-become-leed-certified-accredited

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