12/1/09 Update: If you're looking to keep up to date on LEED 2009, I recommend checking out our own LEEDuser.com, which was recently launched
Editor's Note: When Matt Macko, a principal at Environmental Building Strategies, told me that he was the only energy expert in the room when the new LEED AP BD+C exam was written, I asked him to write the story of his experience for BuildingGreen.com. Here's what he told us. The details of the new LEED AP credentialing program were also announced today. You can also follow this topic on Twitter. – Tristan Roberts, LEED AP
In early February 2009 I received an email stating among other things that the GBCI
(Green Building Certification Institute) was looking for volunteers to write the new LEED for Building Design & Construction (BD+C) 2009 exam.
On the flight from San Francisco to Washington for the three-day mid-week exam writing session, I reflected on my own LEED v2.2 exam experience and what value I could add. I had brutally memorized the Reference Guide like a cramming college student, had some background with green building in the residential sector and knew energy modeling from experience at my company. What I didn't know is that I would be virtually the only one there with energy-related knowledge.
Once we arrived in D.C., we were expected to hook our brains to a Prometric knowledge draining machine for 10 hours a day, a pretty intense job in exchange for travel costs and room service. This device pulled from us anything and everything we knew about green building and LEED. Actually writing the exam tested our ability to remember the Reference Guide, follow strict question-forming instructions, work with partners, and most importantly tested our ability to search PDF's.
For three days we searched the new LEED 2009 Reference Guide to dream up questions about green building subjects we had interest in.
Even though the experience was intense, the atmosphere bubbled with excitement as if we were creating the next great Harry Potter novel, knowing that eager minds would be relying on our work to join the LEED AP ranks. I enjoyed collaborating with like-minded (and in many cases even more intense) people I began to meet. Everyone was surprisingly excited to work for GBCI and produce this material. Who knew three days away from their regular work schedule could be so satisfying?
Well over 110,000 LEED AP's have been accredited under the old testing version. This leads me to believe either that green building is dramatically growing or the economy is bad enough that people are looking for new forms of education to differentiate themselves. Either way, or both, it's good for the industry and the planet, and will hopefully curb the gluttonous lifestyle our buildings have enjoyed through the last half century (pretty much since the invention of air conditioning).
With the advent of the new LEED system, many people probably have questions as to what has changed and what needs to be done to stay on top of things. The new LEED AP or LEED AP + specialty will be a much different than its predecessor. Beginning with the commitment, skill, and diverse knowledge required to pass the exam, followed with the need for project experience, as well as a commitment to 30 hours of Continuing Education, and 4 hour time slot needed to sit for the two-part 200 question exam.
The current green building climate necessitates that there be a distinction between professionals and their certification and accreditation criteria.
As a result of these industry changes, the USGBC and GBCI are representing their stakeholders in the green building community such as architects, engineers, and construction workers, by ensuring the LEED AP is an appropriate representation of a green building professional of today. It is important to note that we in the professional "green" world demanded these changes and the responses to Job Task Analysis surveys showed GBCI what was important to its stakeholders.
The USGBC and GBCI responded by making the changes listed below:
- If you do nothing and/or don't wish to be an AP+ Specialty you retain your LEED AP.
- If you sign up for the Credentialing Maintenance Program (CMP) and follow the Disciplinary Policy guidelines, you will become a LEED AP+ specialty, joining the new regime.
Once you sign up for the CMP, if you took the original AP exam under the New Construction Track you will automatically be "mapped over" to the new LEED AP BD+C (Building Design and Construction) – The same is true for Commercial Interiors; you will be automatically "mapped" over to the LEED AP ID+C (Interior Design and Construction) designation.
- The same is true for Existing Buildings; you will be automatically "mapped" over and have the LEED AP O+M (Operations & Maintenance) designation.
- All of these changes will begin August 3, 2009, at which point a LEED AP will have two years to switch over. Thereafter, a $50 fee is required to maintain your AP+ Specialty status.
Here are some things you need to know if you're thinking of becoming a LEED AP under the new system:
- GBCI has publicly stated that the changes to the exam system reflect the rapid advances in green building technology and practice in the marketplace. Therefore, the new exam system will help ensure that LEED professionals have the latest knowledge and understanding of green building practices AND that their proficiency is recognized.
- The new exam handbook emphasizes the three hierarchical cognitive levels in which questions were written to. They are Recognition Items, Application Items, and Analysis Items. GBCI states the definition of them as:
Recognition Items: These items assess a candidate's ability to recall factual material that is presented in a similar context to the exam references.
Application Items: These items provide the candidate with a novel problem or scenario that the candidate can solve using familiar principles or procedures described in the exam references.
Analysis Items: These items assess a candidate's ability to break the problem down into its components to create a solution. The candidate must not only recognize the different elements of the problem, but must also evaluate the relationship or interactions of these elements. (GBCI LEED Green Associate Candidate Handbook, July 2009, Page 5)
- A test taker should expect questions that were written related to each of these areas in order to demonstrate knowledge. Analysis items will test the ability of a person to analyze scenarios, breaking down the LEED elements and investigating the possible synergies that exist. This context of question breakdown did not exist in previous Candidate Handbooks.
- The AP+ Specialty will be a person who has an advanced depth of knowledge in green building practices and specialization in a particular LEED Rating System such as Building Design and Construction (BD+C) or Operations and Maintenance (O+M). The AP+ Specialty exam and designation is representative of an individual who has passed the exam and possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in the design process, to support and encourage integrated design, and to streamline the application and certification process.
- The LEED Green Associate is a person who possesses the knowledge and skill to understand and support green design, construction, and operations. The LEED Green Associate exam is designed to measure your skills and knowledge against criteria developed by Subject Matter Experts and to assess your knowledge and skill to understand and support green design, construction, and operations. This exam is most appropriate for anyone entering the world of green building as well as someone who supports the LEED system.
- The LEED AP + Specialty exam is designed to measure and assess the candidate's skills and knowledge of green building science, the LEED Rating System, and the certification process as set forth in the most recent Job-Task Analysis that was conducted by GBCI during the 3rd quarter of 2008.
In addition to the study materials listed in the candidate handbooks, I would recommend studying sustainability and the principles of green building. Understanding green building holistically will benefit a test taker greatly. From there, you will understand how the USGBC is using LEED to assess the principles of green building.
On another note, since many preparatory sites out there are as "green" to this new exam as you are, I would wait until they have their bugs worked out before buying into the idea that whomever wrote their sample exams knows how the new exam is different.