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LEED Version 3.0: LEED AP versus LEED GA

The Green Building Certification Institute (“GBCI”) of the USGBC is currently in the process of launching its updated professional designations. The current version of the LEED Accredited Professional exam for Commercial Interiors and New Construction will expire on June 30. Over 80,000 people signed up to take the current version of the exam prior to the April 1 exam registration deadline. Once the current version of the LEED AP exams expire, the LEED credentialing program will become much more stringent. The changes are being brought about in an effort to further distinguish green building professionals and to encourage LEED professionals to maintain and progress their knowledge base and understanding of green building.

If you were one of those people that joined the rush to sign up before the deadline, you now have about a month left to study and pass the exam. If you have procrastinated and signed up to take the exam in June, that still gives you some time to study and memorize the information needed to pass the exam. However, you only have one shot to pass the exam. Because the deadline to sign up for the LEED AP exam has passed, if you don’t pass the first time you will not be able to sign up for the current version of the exam again, even if you still have an amount of time before the exam ceases.

Also, keep in mind that the test centers will fill up and most likely, test takers are going to sign up for the dates closest to the deadline. If you haven’t scheduled your exam date yet, there will be a rush, so it is strongly encouraged to do so right now to ensure that you can schedule the exam at a desirable time and location. It is quite possible that the rush will result in people being forced to schedule and take the exam at an earlier date than planned.

Those that pass will become LEED APs and considered well-versed in the requirements of the LEED rating system, joining the over 100,000 existing LEED APs. After June 30, if you want to become a LEED AP, you will need to jump through some additional hoops. Those that don’t pass will have to sign up for the LEED Green Associate exam. The LEED GA designation is the first part of the new LEED credentialing system. Becoming a LEED GA will show that you have basic knowledge in the rating systems and in green building while also demonstrating expertise for non-technical fields.

The GBCI is strongly encouraging LEED APs to continue to expand their knowledge base by opting into the new credentialing system. The GBCI is offering two options for LEED APs to become a LEED AP “with specialty.” The specialties that will be available are Building Design & Construction (Old NC), Homes, Operations & Maintenance (Old EB), Interior Design & Construction (Old CI), and Neighborhood Development. The first option for current LEED APs to become a LEED AP with specialty is to opt into the new disciplinary policy, agree and complete the Credentialing Maintenance Program (“CMP”), and then select the specialty program that corresponds with the LEED AP exam that he or she passed previously. The second option is to opt into the disciplinary policy, agree and complete the CMP, but the last step is to take and pass one of the LEED specialty exams.

Enrollment must occur before the Summer of 2011. Current LEED APs that do not opt in to the new-tiered credentialing system will be considered by the GBCI as LEED APs “without specialization.” For people that are new to the LEED credential system, you will have to take both the GA exam and a specialty exam to become a LEED AP. There is an option to take them separately or at the same time, where you have 2 hours to complete each exam.

Note with the new LEED credential program that this time around you cannot just take the exam if you pay for it; you will now have to be eligible to take the exam. To be eligible for the GA exam you must show either experience assisting on a LEED-registered project, be employed in a “sustainable” field of work, or attend a workshop that pertains to green building principles. To become eligible to take one of the LEED AP with specialty exams you must “document work on a LEED project, within the last three years, with verification through LEED Online or employer attestation.” Once you become a LEED AP with specialty you have joined the second tier of the new credential system, which means you have an extraordinary depth of knowledge in green building practices and specialization in a particular field.

If you aren’t confused yet, there is going to be a third tier in the new credential system. You will be considered a “LEED AP Fellow” if you are in an elite class of professionals. The LEED Fellow designation is still in the development process and details have yet to be released. Right now, the LEED GA and LEED AP O+M test are available if you missed the deadline for the current version of the LEED AP exam. After beta testing this summer, the remaining specialty designations will become available.

Just to briefly recap, there will soon be four LEED professional designations. From bottom to top; LEED GA, LEED AP (without specialization – can no longer be pursued after June 30 of this year), LEED AP (with specialty: O+M, ND, BD+C, ID+C, and Homes), and finally the elite class of LEED Fellows.

Good luck to those pursuing the current LEED AP exam in NC or CI. For more information on the exams please visit and download their Candidate Handbooks. If you are one of the procrastinators taking the New Construction exam in June please consider joining SKYed’s 2-hour class on Saturday, May 30. It is the quickest way to get all the information needed to study and pass the exam. SKYed will provide you with the information you need to memorize along with LEED exam taking tips. It is then your job to go study and memorize the material. Visit SKYed at for more information and to sign up for the class.

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