Soon after the April 27, 2009, launch of LEED v3, which will provide a new structure for the green building rating system and combine the existing commercial and institutional systems under LEED 2009, green building professionals will see the implementation of a new credentialing system for those seeking LEED accreditation.

Beginning in May with a phased-in implementation, LEED professional credentialing will be based on a tiered program that aligns varying levels of knowledge and qualifications with three levels of accreditation. According to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), the independent organization that provides LEED project certification and professional credentialing, the tiered system will ensure LEED-credentialed professionals are up-to-date on the latest green building information and practices and that they are recognized in accordance with their level of proficiency, as well as allowing the marketplace to distinguish among practitioners.

Professionals may pursue Tier I – LEED Green Associate, Tier II – LEED AP+, or Tier III – LEED AP Fellow.

  • Tier I accreditation is the first step on the LEED career pathway, confirms a candidate's knowledge of good environmental practice and skill, and reflects understanding and support of green design, construction, and operations.

  • Tier II credentials certify an individual's advanced knowledge of green building practices. Tier II also requires candidates to pursue one or more of five specialties: Building Design & Construction, Operation & Maintenance, Interior Design & Construction, Homes, and Neighborhood Development.

  • Tier III's application process and requirements are still being developed, but professionals accredited as LEED AP Fellows will be considered the elite of the program—individuals who contribute to the standards of practice and body of knowledge for advancing the field of green building.

    A new track-based exam system will accompany the tiered credentialing program to accommodate the accreditation levels and specialty designations, and the GBCI will be instituting Credential Maintenance Requirements for each tier. For example, Tier I-accredited professionals will be required to complete 15 hours of continuing education every two years, with three hours completed in an approved program specific to the LEED rating system, credit categories, and LEED updates.

    Those who currently hold LEED AP credentials have several options under the new tiered accreditation system: become a LEED AP+ by enrolling in the new system by June 2011 and completing Credential Maintenance Requirements within the first two years; become a LEED AP+ by passing one of the new specialty exams; or do nothing and retain LEED AP designation without a specialty title. Current LEED APs credentialed under the New Construction, Commercial Interiors, or Existing Buildings systems may enroll in the new credentialing system between June 30, 2009, and June 30, 2011. For complete details on the tiered credentialing system and requirements, visit www.gbci.org.

    The U.S. Green Building Council also is making changes to its education programs to provide structured pathways for achieving the LEED knowledge levels required by each accreditation tier. New educational programs are under development to address LEED 2009 rating systems and the new LEED Online certification tool. The organization's core curriculum will be available in several formats that support the new tiered credentialing and maintenance system:

  • Awareness: Green Building Basics & LEED (100-level) programs are for beginners and those new to the LEED rating system.

  • Understanding: LEED Core Concepts & Strategies (200-level) programs are for those who need an understanding of LEED but may not be involved in implementation, or those seeking GBCI's LEED Green Associate accreditation.

  • Implementation: Green Building LEED Implementation Process (300-level) workshops are for project teams implementing LEED and for those pursuing any of the LEED AP credentials.

    A complete course catalog is available at www.greenbuild365.org.