On August 1, the “enrollment window” for people holding the original LEED AP credential to “opt-in” to the new LEED AP with Specialty Credential will begin to close. During the enrollment window, LEED APs can chose to become a LEED AP with specialty by either agreeing to a prescriptive continuing education path or taking just a LEED AP Specialty exam. Once the enrollment window closes, LEED APs will have to take both the LEED Green Associate exam and a LEED AP Specialty exam to become a LEED AP with Specialty. I have gotten a staggering number of question in the past few months about this process, so I am going to try to explain it as best as I can in this post.
Why Should I Opt-In?
The way I see it, there are a few significant benefits of choosing to opt-in to the LEED AP with Specialty program:
- New versions of the LEED rating system will require multiple project team members to be LEED AP with specialty in order for the team to earn the credit for LEED AP participation.
- The continuing education requirements of the LEED with Specialty credential and available options have evolved enough to be achievable without too much heartburn or cost, especially if you are regularly working on projects.
- There is nothing to lose- LEED APs that opt-in but fail to meet the continuing education requirement will simply revert back to being a LEED AP with no penalty.
Why Should I Consider Not Opting-In?
Although there are benefits to opting into the LEED AP with Specialty system, there are still a few reasons you may with to chose not to opt-in
- The original LEED AP does not have a continuing education requirement or a maintenance fee. If you opt-in to the LEED AP with specialty system, you will be required to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years and pay a $50 fee every two years.
- I am still not seeing a real preference with clients for professionals with the LEED AP with Specialty over the original LEED AP credential. The market is still viewing these credentials as roughly equivalent. This could change over time, but there’s no real way to know for sure.
- I won’t lie, currently the continuing education requirements and reporting process are cumbersome at best. They are getting better, but if you are not working on LEED projects, it could still potentially be very expensive to meet the continuing education requirements. I have seen improvements and expect them to continue, but it’s still not a walk in the park like AIA continuing education has become.
If I choose to Opt-In, which Option Should I Choose?
Option 1: Prescriptive Education
If you choose to opt-in using the prescriptive education path, you will get to chose which specialty you would like from Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Interior Design and Construction (ID+C) or Operations and Maintenance (O+M). You will automatically be given the specialty that corresponds to the LEED AP exam you originally took (for example, if you took New Construction you would get Building Design and Construction) but you can simply call customer service and ask for your credential to be changed to one of the other options if you think it is more appropriate. You may begin using the LEED AP specialty designation immediately, but over the next two years you will have to complete the prescriptive education requirement, which is 30 hours of continuing education with a certain number of the hours being in different categories such as energy efficiency, improvements to the indoor environment, etc. There is no fee or charge to use this option.
Option 2: Testing
You may also choose to opt-in by taking only a LEED Specialty Exam (you do not have to take the Green Associate portion). This path allows you to opt-in to any of the specialties: Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Interior Design and Construction (ID+C), Operations and Maintenance (O+M), Homes, or Neighborhood Development (ND). You will still have to do 30 hours of continuing education over the next two years (and every two year period after that) but they will not need to be earned in specific categories like the prescriptive education path. You will have to pay an application and an exam fee to use this path and, of course, pass the exam that you choose to take!
How Do I Enroll?
Visit the GBCI website and log in to “My Credentials” at the top of the page. Once you login using your username and password, you will see two links near the top of your record. One says “enroll through testing” and one says “enroll through prescriptive maintenance”. Simply click on the option you prefer and follow the prompts on the website.
What Else do I need to Know?
Whether or not you choose to opt-in is really up to you and how you use your credential. If you got your credential several years ago and aren’t regularly working on LEED projects, there may really be no reason to opt-in to the new system and subject yourself to ongoing continuing education requirements and renewal fees. If you are working on LEED projects, though, and want to show your ongoing commitment to sustainable design, then opting in may make a lot of sense. The great thing for all of us “original” LEED APs out there is that they can never take our LEED AP away- even if you opt-in to the new system but fail to complete your continuing education! Below are some official GBCI resources about enrolling if you need more information:
GBCI LEED AP with Specialty Enrollment Page: Click Here
The official GBCI Enrollment Guide: Click Here