Interested in a LEED® credential to advance your career? Let’s explore the differences between the five LEED AP exams, and help you select your best fit. As you may know, the first step to becoming a LEED professional is to earn the LEED Green Associate credential. Once you have passed the LEED Green Associate exam, you can choose to pursue one of five LEED AP specialty credentials:
- LEED AP Building Design + Construction (LEED AP BD+C)
- LEED AP Interior Design + Construction (LEED AP ID+C)
- LEED AP Operations + Maintenance (LEED AP O+M)
- LEED AP Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND)
- LEED AP Homes
An important first question to ask is, ‘Why do I want this credential?’ If your motivation is primarily to convince your clients that you are an expert – then choose the credential most clearly aligns with your field of work. For example, if you are a structural engineer who designs warehouses, then you will want to pursue the LEED AP BD+C credential. It is primarily aimed at professionals who participate in designing and constructing new buildings.
LEED Rating Systems
Another rule of thumb is to choose the credential based on the name of the rating system(s) you use for your job. Most of the names are identical, except for the most common credential, LEED AP BD+C. Use the table below to better understand the most frequently used rating systems associated with each LEED AP credential. It is important to note that the LEED AP BD+C credential is most similar to the original LEED credential and still remains the most popular among all test takers.
|LEED AP Credential||Most Common LEED Rating Systems|
|Building Design and Construction (BD+C)||New Construction
Core and Shell
|Interior Design and Construction (ID+C)||Commercial Interiors|
|Operations and Maintenance (O+M)||Existing Buildings|
|Homes||Homes Design and Construction|
|Neighborhood Development (ND)||Neighborhood Development: Built Project
Neighborhood Development: Plan
Let’s examine the LEED AP BD+C credential a bit closer. This credential is intended for the core team members participating the new construction or major renovation of a commercial, institutional, or industrial building project. Individuals who hold this credential are often Architects, Engineers, Developers, or Consultants who want to lead their teams to greater success in delivering sustainable solutions.
The LEED AP BD+C credential is also a good fit for students who are just getting their feet wet in green building, as well as the mid-career professional who is staying up to date with the latest technology and trends in the construction industry. For this reason, if nothing else is a good fit, fall back on the Building Design + Construction path and you will have a solid foundation of green buildings know-how.
LEED BD+C project teams
Who else needs to be an expert at green building design and construction? Let’s look at project team members from the ground up; starting with professionals who manage dirt and soil on the site. These team members need to know how to design and install the terrain to LEED BD+C specifications: civil engineers, geotechnical engineers, and landscape architects are all examples of classic project team roles that integrate green practices into their broader fields. Smaller subcontractors and specialty manufacturers are in the next wave of adopters and these professionals benefit greatly from the expertise gained by studying LEED credential material. A back-hoe operator, a subcontractor who installs constructed wetlands, or a plant nursery owner could include specialty services to meet LEED for new construction project requirements and thereby become valuable assets on a project team requiring these specialties.
Next, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing designers and installers have a huge responsibility to design and build to LEED prerequisites. Project teams will be looking to partner with consultants in these fields who can demonstrate that they are educated and experienced at meeting sustainability goals. Some emerging niche fields whose members are adopting the credential include solar panel providers, pump manufacturers, lighting sales representatives, irrigation system installers, and countless other product sales specialists.
Other LEED AP BD+C careers
Finally, the finishing touches need to be green too. Traditional roles like interior designers, furniture makers, and carpet companies have long been green pioneers for healthy indoor environments. What does the future of green trends hold? The next LEED AP BD+C could be an app developer or a software architect. The industry needs smarter carbon calculators for budgeting in the schematic phase. Our building users need real-time updates of bus arrivals and departures to improve transit ridership. The integration of sustainability and the built environment is just now getting online.
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