LEEDing the Way to a Green Collar Job
Welcome to my journey. I am pursuing LEED AP certification to increase my sustainability knowledge base, to help guide my restoration of an historic opera house, and to improve my chances of landing a green collar job after 20 years in high tech – despite an economy on life support and a sea of job seekers.
Anyone interested in cleantech, efficiency, sustainability or the environment can benefit from formal LEED certification as it integrates these critical and frequently separate elements into a practical whole, and enables you to think more systematically about each as well. A LEED AP is generally recognized as an expert in the field of sustainable design and can add significant value to a cleantech career. And, who knows, LEED certification may help you get that coveted green collar job as together we Energize America.
An acronym rarely heard outside the building community and hard-core energy enthusiasts before last year, LEED is increasingly bubbling up in conversations and job descriptions everywhere. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, managed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization whose mission is to
"transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves quality of life."
The LEED point-based scoring system includes programs for Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum for new buildings, existing buildings, homes, schools and neighborhood development, and ranges from a minimum of 26 to 69 points measured across the entire lifecycle of a facility, including site sustainability, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources and indoor environmental quality.
Need for LEED
It certainly makes sense to focus on sustainable facility design since buildings in the US are responsible 72% of electricity consumption and 39% of CO2 emissions. Globally, buildings are the largest since source of CO2 emissions, followed by transportation then industry. According to the USGBC, green buildings can reduce energy 24-50%, CO2 emissions 33-39%, water use 14% and solid waste 70% (source).
Demand for LEED-certified buildings and professionals is booming due to unprecedented governmental initiatives, heightened residential demand and improvements in sustainable materials. While customers used to pay a hefty ‘LEED premium’, the incremental cost today is estimated at an extra 2% of construction costs and up to $150K in soft costs for Certified through Gold level certification, depending on how much assistance is needed with the certification process. The projected green building market value is expected to grow rapidly from $12B in 2006 to $30-60B in 2010, requiring a serious injection of venture capital and green products and services delivered by a wide range of energy-smart and environmentally aware clean techies.
Flickr - Projected Green Building Market Value
The Journey Begins
Individuals can become LEED accredited by successfully taking the LEED Accredited Professional Exam, which enables an individual to facilitate the rating of buildings with the various LEED systems. Professional Accreditation is administered by the Green Building Certification Institute, which has partnered with Prometricto provide seminars and lectures to prepare candidates to take and pass the LEED AP Exam. The cost to take the exam is $300 for USGBC members and $400 for non-members, plus roughly $200 for a Reference Guide specific to a particular category. Optional, fee-based USGBC seminars are available from a variety of third party providers to help individuals prepare for the exam. USGBC membership, which ranges from $300 to several thousand depending on organizational size and type, is not a requirement for taking any of the exams that correspond to the various versions of the LEED system including New Buildings, Existing Building and Commercial Interiors.
You can download sample test questions and review the LEED Accredited Professional Handbook for a better understanding of the process. The LEED AP exam consists of 80 questions, and is scored on a scale of 125 to 200, with a score of 170 required to pass. In future posts I’ll review each of the five categories of the Commercial Interiors Reference Guide at a high level, and hopefully put each into a broader context of specific cleantech solutions and overall market opportunities.