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The Growth of LEED Certified Construction Management Programs and Positions

LEED certificationIn a July post, Keen for Green discussed numerous career paths available to the environmentally conscious. In today’s post, Noelle Hirsch advances this discussion with regard to a particularly popular career choice for the eco-conscious: construction management. Obtaining the sought-after LEED certification can open up a host of career options for construction managers who can cater to the new generation of property owners who are more concerned with conservation than ever before. For more information about construction management, you can check out http://www.constructionmanagement.net/, another website that Noelle writes for which focuses on construction management higher education.

The Growth of LEED Certified Construction Management Programs and Positions

According to many industry experts, the future of construction management lies squarely within the sustainability sector. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification process for both homes and industrial buildings has proved enormously popular. LEED certification is awarded at varying levels depending on the level of sustainability that is inherent in the construction, so it takes into account everything from the type of appliances installed to the maximization of natural resources. While nearly any architectural firm or construction team can create a certification-worthy building, specialized training and credentialing is available—and has perhaps never been more valuable. LEED-credentialed professionals often have their pick of projects, which increases their ability to find creative, stimulating work.


Inefficient building has long been the standard in the United States for reasons of convenience and ignorance. Decades ago, energy sources were perceived as bottomless. Construction was typically more concerned with aesthetics and completion speed than conservation. But a shift in the market has occurred, and modern consumers want not only style and affordability, but also a consideration for the environment. And while building to green standards can cost more at the outset, the savings over time are often staggering.

Building green buildings can be as easy as installing energy-saving appliances, but construction teams can do much more. Designing homes, schools, and offices to conserve dwindling natural resources and maximize energy-saving potential requires a certain degree of expertise, which generally comes in the form of official LEED credentials.

The USGBC offers three different levels, or tiers, of credentials for professionals looking to work in green construction and planning. The first is “Green Associate,” which certifies a basic knowledge of LEED credentials and requirements. “From marketers to lawyers, landscape architects to education professionals, the LEED Green Associate credential enhances the careers of those who hold it by adding a sound foundation in sustainability,” the Green Building Certification Institute says on its website.

A Green Associate can be a valuable addition to planning teams, since these individuals know exactly what it will take to earn a LEED award for the finished project. Earning this credential usually requires at least some experience in eco-friendly building or planning, and the ability to pass a 100-question multiple-choice exam.

Earning the next highest certification, the LEED Accredited Professional (AP), requires a bit more rigor. In addition to passing the Green Associate exam, candidates must choose a specialization and pass an additional test related specifically to this area. There are five possible specializations, including homes, maintenance operations, and building design and construction.

Individuals with the LEED AP credential are often hired as consultants and project managers. They are in demand primarily for their expertise, and can be instrumental in ensuring that a green building both meets environmental standards when it is constructed and maintains those standards in everyday use.

“Having a LEED expert on the facilities staff can guarantee the ongoing effectiveness of the building throughout its life-cycle,” Paul Todd Merrill, the director of sustainable construction at Clayco, a real estate company, told the FacilitiesNet industry newsletter. “A facility executive that is a LEED AP will bring ideas to the table that the architect and engineer would never have thought of.”

The third and final credential is the LEED Fellow, a distinction reserved for the most elite green building professionals. Earning this status typically requires several years of practice as a well-respected LEED AP, along with endorsements from industry leaders. This award is by nomination only.

Though the Fellow credential is limited to experts, almost anyone can become a Green Associate or AP. Architectural or construction training is usually considered beneficial, but is not required. In most cases, anyone over 18 years of age is eligible to sit for the credentialing exams.

Candidates are encouraged to spend a great deal of time studying for these rigorous exams. The USGBC offers a number of exam tips on its website, including sample practice questions. Schools like Everblue Training Institute also offer extensive training courses that prepare students for either the Associate or AP exam sets, usually through a combination of online classes and practice tests.

“Not only will you be in demand because of your specialized skills, you will be able to compete in an economy where LEED is quickly becoming the norm, rather than the exception, for professionals in the building industry,” states Everblue spokespeople. “Add to that the recent changes to the LEED system that make it more attractive and applicable to anyone with an interest in sustainability, and you’ve got a perfect time to get accredited.”

Pursuing LEED credentials is often overlooked by many budding brains in the construction and design sector. Though the time commitment is often intense, the rewards can be great. Earning credentials as either an Associate or AP can dramatically up one’s value in a job market that increasingly favors eco-consciousness and sustainability. For the planet and for a better career, many are finding the time and effort more than worthwhile.