What is LEED Accreditation?

What is LEED Accreditation?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to list, recognize, and encourage sustainable building practices.

The system works for both building projects and individual professionals. There is often confusion about LEED certification vs accreditation – both terms are often used interchangeably. 

While you could say that you need to get LEED certified as an individual, the official usage of the terms is that buildings get LEED certified, while individual architects and other professionals are LEED accredited.

Who is LEED accreditation for – the eligibility requirements

The LEED examination and accreditation are open to professionals interested in sustainable building practices and the LEED certification system. 

The list includes

  • Architects and Engineers
  • Interior Designers
  • Construction Managers
  • Building Owners and Operators
  • Sustainability Consultants
  • Real Estate Professionals
  • Students and Educators

You must meet the eligibility requirements for the accreditation level you are interested in.

Individuals have two types of LEED credentials: the LEED Green Associate (LEED GA) and LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) with a speciality. 

Here’s how to be eligible for each type of accreditation:

LEED Green Associate

To be eligible for the LEED Green Associate, you must have documented experience working on or studying a LEED project. This certification has no requirements for education or work experience – you can get it without an architectural degree.

LEED Accredited Professional with a speciality

This accreditation level is available to candidates with a combination of education and work experience in the sustainable building industry. The specific numbers may vary, but you must generally have some work experience on a LEED project and a degree.

You can double-check the eligibility requirements for each credential in the LEED Candidate Handbook, available on the US Green Building Council (USGBC) website.

Reasons to become LEED accredited

There are several reasons to become LEED accredited as a professional, and all of them come down to increasing your bottom line, which is possible with proper profit planning.

Offering new services

Having LEED credentials helps you offer sustainable building design-related services to your clients. We’ve previously listed sustainable design services as one of the best upsells for an architectural practice.

Staying competitive

Sustainable building design is no longer a fad – it’s becoming a requirement. Being LEED accredited will let you keep your edge over other architects.

Actually creating better buildings

LEED certification has always been based on measurable performance metrics, which help identify areas for improvement in energy expenditure, insulation, and other factors. LEED-certified buildings are designed to be more energy and water efficient, which results in cost savings and better comfort for end users.

Building up your brand and reputation

People pay attention to credentials, and chances are they always will. No matter how talented or experienced you are, having credentials is always a good idea. 

LEED certification can be a valuable credential for architects, engineers, construction managers, interior designers, and many other sustainable building professionals.

Worldwide LEED recognition, USGBC partnerships and charters

LEED accreditation is not just for US-based professionals. The USGBC has many chapters and partnerships active worldwide.

Some of them are:

Green Building Council Brasil (GBC Brasil): The GBC Brasil is a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable building practices in Brazil. It is a World Green Building Council member and offers LEED certification and training programs in Portuguese.

Green Building Council Canada (CaGBC): The CaGBC offers LEED certification and training programs in English and French.

Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA): The GBCA is a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable building practices in Australia. It is a World Green Building Council member and offers LEED certification and training programs in English.

There are many more chapters – you can find the right one for your region at https://www.usgbc.org/communities/chapters.

The LEED accreditation exam

Architects and other building professionals must pass an exam to get LEED accredited. You must repeat the exam every two years to maintain the accredited status.

All the LEED exams test the knowledge and skills required to implement and manage sustainable building practices. The exam comprises 100 multiple-choice questions and is administered through computer-based testing centres.

As we mentioned, there are two exams – the LEED AP and the LEED GA. 

The LEED AP speciality requires more hands-on experience and knowledge of the LEED rating system, while the LEED GA accreditation is intended for individuals who are newer to sustainable building practices. Respectively, one of the exams could be called more difficult.

The LEED AP exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions; candidates have 2 hours to complete it. The exam covers various topics, including sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design.

The passing score for the exam is 170 out of 200 possible points or approximately 85%. You will receive your exam results immediately after completing it – and if you don’t pass, you may retake it after a 90-day waiting period.

LEED study and preparation resources

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) provides study materials and resources to help professionals prepare for the LEED exams:

You can also use third-party LEED preparation services like Green Exam Academy – just be aware of possible extra costs.

The cost of LEED accreditation exam

Preparing for and taking the LEED exam can be pricey. The costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the materials and resources you choose to use. 

Here are some of the LEED accreditation-associated costs:

Exam Fee

The cost of the LEED exam varies depending on whether you are taking the GA or the AP exam. As of March 2023, the LEED Green Associate exam costs $250 for USGBC members and $350 for non-members. The cost for speciality exams is $350 for USGBC members and $450 for non-members.

Exam Retake Fee

If you fail the first time(s) you can retake the exam – the fee would be $200 for USGBC members and $250 for non-members.

Exam Preparation Materials

Many preparation materials include study guides, practice exams, and prep courses. These can cost up to several hundred dollars.

Continuing Education

If you want to maintain your LEED accreditation credentials, you must earn continuing education hours – 15 hours for the GA level and 30 hours for the AP level. These hours can come from courses, webinars, events, and other activities (check this guide). Some of these activities may have associated costs.

If you’re serious about building your brand as an architect and standing out among your competition, consider using PlanMan for all your operations, documents, and communication management.

Most of our clients report that it’s the best project management software for architects they have tried.