Have you ever heard of LEED certified buildings? Or maybe you’re interested in making buildings more sustainable? I always was and I realized that I could get more involved with and learn more about the LEED certification process by becoming a LEED Green Associate. Here are some things I learned from my certification experience and a quick overview of why LEED is so important.
First of all, what is LEED? It stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the certification process for buildings that have gone above and beyond to become sustainable. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) developed and now oversees the LEED program, while the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) is a third-party organization that actually certifies the buildings in order to make sure no corners are cut. The USGBC releases LEED rating systems in versions and the latest version, released in 2013, is the LEED v4 system, which is the system for which I received my certification.
Why is LEED so important and why should buildings pursue LEED certification? First of all, according to the USGBC, people spend 90 percent of their time indoors so it makes sense to focus on making those environments more sustainable. Additionally, buildings account for approximately 40 percent of the energy used today because of their systems, location and the transportation that people take to get to them every day. LEED mitigates these impacts by helping to create buildings that have more efficient systems. Today, more than 15 billion square feet of building space has been LEED-certified, according to the USGBC. The USGBC has found that LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate and “on average reduc[e] energy and water bills by as much as 40 percent” (USGBC, 2015). Additionally, better indoor air quality means less turnover of tenants and better attendance of employees. For more information about what makes LEED-certified buildings better than average, check out the USGBC website.
After I learned this information, it became apparent to me that LEED certification was something I wanted. However, studying for the exam was no small feat. Deciding to become a LEED Green Associate is an investment both in yourself and for the environment. You need to allocate enough time and effort to study because there is so much to learn. For example, I studied for about three weeks, though some people need more time and others less. However, if this is something you’re interested in pursuing, then the subject matter is enjoyable and well worth the time.
Once you’re done studying, you have to go to the nearest testing site to take the exam (having studied at Colgate, my closest testing site was in Utica). You have two hours to answer 100 questions; the exam is scored from 125 to 200 points, and you need at least 170 to pass. The questions are a mix of recall, application and analysis.
Once you become a LEED Green Associate, you are required to report 15 hours of continuing education every two years to show that you are keeping up to date with your knowledge. I’m doing this by helping with Colgate’s current efforts to renovate East and West Halls according to LEED regulations. John Pumilio, Director of the Colgate Sustainability Office, encourages more students become Green Associates so that they can be involved in the LEED certification process at Colgate.
For me, being a LEED Green Associate is the first step toward my goal of pursuing sustainability in buildings and architecture. Whatever your goals for sustainability are, LEED is an important thing to incorporate because it gives you so many ideas about the various places in your life that you can make more sustainable. For me, I learned a lot about how vital reducing transportation to buildings can be and how many different kinds of sustainable materials can be used in a building. Whatever your passion for sustainability is, consider adding LEED to it!