LEED 101: A Guide to Accreditation and Architectural Advancement

Like everyone who desires career growth and advancement, certifications have become a big thing to acquire. The field of architecture is not any different. Architecture is a fast and constantly changing industry because of new ideas and improvements in technology and materials. However, if you’re not seeking out what certifications are trending or you aren’t in mainstream architecture then you may not know what is new.

Today, I will be talking about Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), what it is, how you stand to benefit, what opportunities are there, especially for architects in developing nations, how you can become a LEED Green Associate or LEED Accredited Professional (AP), the difference between a Green Assoc. and an AP.

To start with, people often make a common mistake when they refer to LEED certification. You hear statements like I am LEED-certified, that isn’t correct because only buildings are certified, individuals are LEED-accredited.

What is LEED

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system administered by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). Please note that the ‘US’ isn’t called ‘United States’ here as USGBC is an international organization.

Through a variety of ways, LEED has set the standards and requirements every building seeking its certification must meet or exceed. These standards and requirements are documented and reported by LEED-accredited individuals every time they engage in the design, construction, operations and management of buildings seeking certification. There are 4 LEED certifications for buildings; Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.


In basic terms, the significance of LEED is to protect and preserve nature, health and the earth. If a good number of buildings make it to be LEED-certified, their impact on the earth and its resources will be considerably lowered which translates into a less stressed environment. A brief list of things that LEED frowns at in buildings and sets a standard against are;

  • Urban sprawl (spread out development)
  • Unnecessary development on water bodies, farmlands, areas with biodiversity etc.
  • Unnecessary use of fossil fuel-powered means of transportation including vehicles
  • Insufficient green areas/excessive parking footprint
  • Always driving not walking or cycling
  • Wasteful/ inefficient use of energy
  • Wasteful use of potable water
  • Erosion and excessive stormwater runoff
  • Wasteful use of materials (LEED advocates the reduce, reuse or recycle strategy to preserve already limited resources)

Ultimately, whether with or without LEED the world will need to take action against the deteriorating conditions of the earth caused by its activities such as global warming, ozone depletion, increasing carbon footprint etc. LEED, therefore, strives to educate and empower accredited individuals to take the initiative while designing, constructing, operating and managing buildings to preserve and restore the earth’s condition/resources.

Benefits of LEED

Green buildings are ultimately designed to have a reduced carbon footprint (the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels), which reduces pollution and reverses global warming. The health benefits of these are enormous.

With a reduction in wasteful consumption of potable water and energy, more water and energy will become available to more people. This is particularly significant in developing countries where power blackouts and water shortages are common. For developed nations, the energy spent on the production and distribution of these items will be reduced/saved.

Green buildings and neighbourhoods are specifically designed to promote healthy living. They discourage the perpetual use of fossil fuel vehicles and promote cycling and walking. They achieve this through compact development where all the facilities needed to work and live are either in the building or within a walkable distance. They also ensure that green buildings are located very close to functional public transportation such as trams, trains, bicycles and bus routes.

Lastly, conserving and preserving our forest and natural habitat will guarantee a sustainable future for the coming generation.

LEED opportunities for Architects in developing nations.

LEED is fast catching up in developing nations but it isn’t as widespread as it is in the advanced ones. There is clearly still a lot of opportunities for architects, engineers, builders, interior designers, real estate developer, facility managers etc.

It’s no longer news that most natural resources (which developing nations heavily depend on) will run out someday and the continuous use of natural resources especially fossil fuel will continue to have an adverse effect on the environment but what will be news is;

  • How developing nations are preparing to surmount the challenges that will arise when crude oil or natural gas runs out
  • When the environment is so polluted that its adverse effect on human health and the socio-economic situation start rising
  • When the forest and wildlife habitat are non-existent because of wasteful use and urban sprawl

At this point, we will have to turn GREEN. Going green before everyone will give the architect a good advantage – a market share of choice clients, know-how and experience that is incomparable. Additionally, he will drive the green agenda and increase his value by teaching people that it is possible to construct and operate buildings with reduced energy/water demands saving then tremendous financial resources, creating more livable buildings and cities than currently exist in most parts of developing nations, and enhancing individual health.

Becoming LEED Accredited

Becoming LEED accredited is a straightforward process. You simply visit the USGBC or GBCI website, sign up, register for the exams, and take and pass the exams. Architects, interior designers, engineers, builders, facility managers, land surveyors, real estate managers etc can become LEED accredited.

There are three categories of LEED accreditation; Green Associate, Accredited Professional (AP), and LEED Fellow.

LEED Green Associate

It can be shortened to LEED Green Assoc. it is incorrect to write LEED GA. This is an entry-level/beginner accreditation for individuals seeking to participate in the green building process. As an Associate, you can work within a team to certify buildings. You have a general knowledge of USGBC, green building rating systems, credits, prerequisites, points, etc.

LEED Accredited Professional (AP)

It can be shortened to LEED AP. This is the highest accreditation you can acquire by writing an exam. It is a higher step than the Green Assoc. Here, you have a specialty in one or more of the specialty areas. You are very equipped with the knowledge to handle green building certifications. The five areas of specialty are:

  • Building Design and Construction (BD+C)
  • Interior Design and Construction (ID+C)
  • Building Operation and Management (O&M)
  • Neighbourhood Development (ND)
  • Homes

So ideally when you see an accredited individual with the LEED AP initials you ought to see his/her specialty next to it. For example LEED AP (BD+C).

LEED Fellow

These are LEED AP with specialties that have distinguished themselves in the practice of green building certification. They are nominated by their peers, vetted and elevated to fellows. They are required to have eight years of cumulative experience.

So, I hope you learnt something new today! Why not take the initiative, visit the USGBC and start your journey to becoming a LEED-accredited professional.

2 thoughts on “LEED 101: A Guide to Accreditation and Architectural Advancement”

  1. Geophery Rakun

    This is really insightful. Thank you.
    But of I may ask, is there any platform or form of membership for students? It’ll really be cool learning about these early enough.
    Thank you sir

    1. There is no special platform for students but a student over the age of 18 years can take the LEED certification.

      If you only want the knowledge you can visit the USGBC website to get all their free resource materials.

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