Becoming a LEED Green Associate

May 5, 2010

GreenHomeNYC volunteer Brian Rahm reflects on his path to becoming LEED AP.

I was between jobs, had some time to kill, and wanted to do something productive. “Why not go for my USGBC LEED Green Associate accreditation,” I thought. And so I did.

This three-part blog posting is about the process I went through, the initial perceptions I had, the reality of what I found, and how my story may help others who wish to become LEED Green Associate accredited, but don’t know where to start.

At the beginning, I have to admit, I didn’t think becoming a LEED Green Associate was going to be very hard. I looked at the USGBC website and followed the link to information about preparing for my exam. It was here that I first learned about the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) – the organization in charge of administering the Green Associate credential – and the basic sequence of steps I would need to follow to get accreditation. The USGBC and GBCI websites have ample information on this stuff, so I won’t go into too much detail. A brief outline of the process I followed is below:

  1. Determine my eligibility to take the exam based on the experience required by GBCI
  2. Since I was apparently not eligible already, become eligible by taking a course
  3. Upon completion of the course, register for the exam
  4. Study, take, and pass the exam, in that order

After signing in to the GBCI website, I came across the LEED Green Associate Candidate Handbook. The Handbook does a good job of outlining the steps that I briefly give above, and also outlines major content areas that the exam may cover. In particular, the Handbook lists a set of Primary References from which exam material is taken. For some reason, I pretty much ignored this part of the Handbook for a few weeks. But, in hindsight, it is a good place to start in terms of gathering study material. A key feature of the Primary References list – at least for those on a tight budget – is that all but one of the cited sources are free. There is one exception.

The Green Building & LEED Core Concepts Guide sits conspicuously at the top of the list of Primary References, and is available for purchase through the USGBC website. Given the promising title of the Core Concepts Guide and its primary position among recommended study materials, I decided it would be a good pace to start.

The Green Building & LEED Core Concepts Guide is described on the USGBC website as the “reference resource for the LEED Green Associate Credential,” and is available as a hardcopy ($40/50 – member/nonmember) or e-book ($35/45).

My Expectation: When I tried to order the Guide, it was on backorder. For the reasons given above, however, I was convinced that this was an important, must-have document. So, I placed an order for the hardcopy and waited a few weeks for it to arrive. Once I had read and studied the guide, I thought, I would be ready for the exam.

The Reality: Make no mistake, the Green Building & LEED Core Concepts Guide DOES NOT prepare you for the exam, and DOES NOT contain the information covered by the exam. What it does a good job of is introducing major LEED concepts, and getting you excited about all the great things green building is capable of. The guide also references a variety of reports and case studies that provide general information on green building and give context to the LEED program in general.

The Bottom Line: This guide is designed as a basic introduction to the LEED program. Those of you with expertise in building principles, sustainability, or environmental engineering (like me) will probably be left wondering why you bought the guide at all. If you are new to the field this may be a more appropriate place to start. If this is a resource you feel you need, at least save a tree (and $5) and get the e-book.

Also available through USGBC is a USGBC LEED Green Associate Study Guide ($70/85), which promises to be more helpful in preparing you for the exam, and is meant as a companion to the Core Concepts Guide.

Read part two of Brian’s journey.

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