The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) launched new categories for LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED APs) in 2009 in order to distinguish the title in the marketplace.  By the end of October 2011, existing LEED APs were given two choices:  either keep their existing LEED AP designation as a “legacy” or enroll in a specialty, most typically Building Design and Construction (BD+C).

I believe that the LEED AP + specialty designation adds value by ensuring to the client that an architect is up-to-date and focused on current sustainable design practices.  LEED APs without specialty (legacy) may have passed the LEED exam 10 years ago and never actually worked on a green building.  With the new GBCI requirements, practitioners are not even eligible to take the LEED AP exam without LEED project experience.  LEED registered projects will also benefit from having a LEED AP + specialty.  The 2012 LEED draft will require a LEED AP + specialty in order to earn the Innovation in Design credit for having a LEED AP on the team.  Having a legacy LEED AP on the project team will no longer earn the extra point.

In order to become a LEED AP + specialty, you have to agree to complete 30 hours of sustainable continuing education every two years.  Although it will take a little extra work and add to the already tedious task of tracking continuing education, it is worthwhile to market and differentiate yourself amongst over 130,000 LEED APs.

So, as licensed architects in Colorado, we are required to complete continuing education requirements in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.  In addition, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) requires 18 hours of continuing education in order to maintain membership.  In 2009, the AIA also added the requirement of four hours of sustainable design per year.  However, the LEED AP with specialty credential is unique in that its continuing education requirement is solely based on sustainable building design and LEED-specific learning.  Although continuing education is valuable to each member of the profession, how much is too much?  And is there truly a benefit to our clients by each organization requiring their own?