The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has made some sweeping changes to its accreditation program (AP) for individuals working in the green building industry. The biggest change is that there will be several levels of accreditation for people with different levels of interest and expertise in green building.

In the current LEED AP system, available through March 31 of this year, an applicant can take a two-hour exam in one of three categories: new construction (NC), existing buildings (EB), or commercial interiors (CI). Regardless of the category, an individual who passes the exam receives the LEED AP designation. Beginning in August of this year, those who have earned the LEED AP will be considered Legacy LEED APs.

In regard to Legacy LEED AP, here is the breakdown. If you are one of the 65,000 current LEED APs, you can maintain your status without retesting by signing a disciplinary policy and agreeing to credential maintenance. Beginning in June of this year, one will have two years in which to sign the policy and agree to the maintenance. As a Legacy LEED AP, one will be required to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years and pay $50 in maintenance for every two years, beginning in 2011.

The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), the USGBC’s credentialing body, will begin to offer three new levels of accreditation later this year:

• LEED Green Associate -Also known as the “core” testing level, the LEED Green Associate is for people that support the LEED rating system, but do not necessarily have to design and build. The exam tests for basic green building knowledge and is the same across all rating systems. A prerequisite is that you must be involved in a sustainable field of work or study, you agree to pursue 15 hours of continuing education every two years, and pay a $50 maintenance fee every two years.

• LEED AP+ -This accreditation level will include the core exam as part of its testing, and also include another two-hour exam on one of five specialization areas: commercial building design & construction (formerly NC); existing buildings operation and maintenance (formerly EB); commercial interior design (formerly CI); residential; or neighborhood development.

Even before you apply to take the LEED AP+ exam, you must meet the requirement that you worked on a LEED project, by either having a letter from an owner or general contractor attesting your participation or by being the person responsible for a LEED credit through LEED online. Upon passing the exam, to maintain your LEED AP+ status you need to pay a $50 maintenance fee every two years and take 30 hours of continuing education every two years.

• LEED Fellow -This accreditation is meant to recognize the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the LEED community. To become a LEED Fellow, you demonstrate contributions to the standards of LEED as well as take part in a peer review of your project portfolio. Additional details on this accreditation will be announced at a later time, noted USGBC.

The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) is recommending that any contractors who have taken the LEED AP prep course take the current test before March. With the eligibility requirements of the new LEED AP+, contractors that have not previously worked on LEED projects may find it hard to meet the prerequisites, said the association.

Courtney France, from France Sustainable Solutions and MCAA’s primary LEED consultant, will be hosting a free Webinar on March 26 to cover the details on the new LEED AP+ system. To register, visit

Publication date:03/02/2009