Building owners are becoming increasingly interested in sustainable construction and having their buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

The LEED system was developed by the USGBC to provide an objective, consistent and measurable method for determining the degree to which a new or renovated building is a “green” building. The “greenness” of a construction project is determined by the number of points earned, documented and recognized by the USGBC through its rating system. This rating system embodies best practices in sustainable design, construction and building operation.

As more and more private and public owners seek LEED certification for their building projects, there is an increasing need for the electrical contracting firm’s personnel to understand LEED requirements. Even though LEED certification starts with design, the sustainable elements of the design must be incorporated into the construction process and properly documented by knowledgeable construction professionals in order to achieve the owner’s goal of a USGBC-certified green project.

LEED professional accreditation

Owners who want a LEED-certified building project need to be assured that project participants understand the rating process so that the necessary points for the desired level of LEED certification are not only obtained, but that the credits earned are properly documented in the USGBC application for certification.

To help project owners identify qualified individuals to shepherd their project through the LEED certification process, the USGBC identifies LEED Accredited Professionals (AP) through an examination process.

It should be noted that LEED certification of a building project does not require a LEED AP. However, the LEED Green Building Rating System does award one point toward certification for having at least one principal project participant that is a LEED AP. This point is awarded under Credit 2 of the rating system’s Innovation and Design Process category, and requires that the individuals contact information and LEED Accredited Professional Certificate be submitted with the building project’s application for LEED certification.

Contractors and LEED APs

Originally, LEED APs were either owner’s representatives or key members of the design team. However, as more and more building projects sought LEED certification, it became increasingly evident that a successful sustainable building project depended as much on construction as it did on design.

As a result, building owners and designers are now looking for contractors that have “green construction” experience and are beginning to require that general contractors (GCs) and construction managers (CMs) assign LEED APs to the project if the project is seeking LEED certification.

Similarly, GCs and CMs are realizing that they need knowledgeable specialty contractors and are seeking electrical contracting firms that have LEED construction project experience. Having LEED APs on staff can be an effective marketing tool for the electrical contracting firm and provide competitive advantage as more and more building projects go “green.”

The road to AP

The USGBC accredits individuals and not firms so the electrical contracting firm cannot become LEED accredited. As noted above, individual electrical contracting firm employees can become LEED APs by taking and passing the USGBC examination.

There are no eligibility requirements for taking the Professional Accreditation Examination except that candidates should be familiar with the design and construction process, have knowledge about “green” construction, and understand the LEED rating system and application process.

The examination is administered for USGBC by Prometric, which is a third-party testing service with locations around the country. Individuals can make an appointment to take the examination at one of its locations anytime during business hours.

Examination study materials include the LEED Green Building Rating System, reference guide, letter templates and other references. In addition, the USGBC sponsors workshops to help candidates get ready to take the LEED Accredited Professional examination. Information about the examination, scheduling an appointment to take the examination, purchasing examination study materials, and workshop dates can be obtained from the USGBC’s Web site at www.usgbc.org.

This article is the result of a research project investigating the emerging IBS market for the electrical contractor that is being sponsored by ELECTRI International Inc. The author would like to thank the foundation for its support. EC

GLAVINICH is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at The University of Kansas and is a frequent instructor for NECA’s Management Education Institute. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 or tglavinich@ku.edu.