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Get a LEED AP with specialty on your team

The Energy Resource Center team celebrates their LEED-EBOM v4 Platinum achievement in Downey, CA.

To earn this credit a member of your team must be a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) with the appropriate specialty for the specific LEED rating system. 

The LEED certification process relies on a detailed understanding of LEED, so having a LEED AP with the right specialty on board benefits the project and can save significant time and effort. LEED APs are trained to spot the synergies that occur between different sustainability strategies and their respective LEED credits. As a cherry on top, the LEED AP earns your project a point with this credit.

LEED v4 requires the LEED AP be a "principal participant of the project team," but the exact definition of what that means is up for interpretation. Ideally the LEED AP would be closely involved in the project through its duration, but USGBC does not have a history of scrutinizing the level of LEED AP involvement in order to award this credit.

Specialty matters

The LEED AP must have the right specialty credential in order to earn this credit on a LEED project. The specialties include:

  • LEED BD+C for Design and Construction rating systems
  • LEED ID+C for Interior Design and Construction rating systems
  • LEED O+M for Operations and Maintenance rating systems
  • LEED ND for Neighborhood Development

If you’re on a LEED-EBOM project, you would need a LEED AP O+M to earn this credit. On a LEED-NC project, you need a LEED AP BD+C. If you have a specialty that doesn't match the rating system you're using, that will probably help you navigate LEED, but it won't qualify you for this credit. The emphasis on specialty is a change from LEED 2009, which did not require a specialty.

LEED AP’s without a specialty (also known as legacy AP’s, because their credential predates the introduction of specialties) do not qualify either. The LEED AP specialty credential must be current at the time of certification or this credit cannot be earned.

What about LEED Green Associates?

LEED Green Associates, sometimes abbreviated LEED GA, have a solid understanding of green building principals and best practices. However, individuals with the LEED Green Associate credential only do not qualify for this credit.

Earning the LEED AP with specialty

To earn the LEED AP credential you must pass both the LEED Green Associate exam and the LEED AP specialty exam. The LEED Green Associate credential is the first step for all candidates looking to earn a LEED specialty credential. Legacy LEED APs must pass the LEED Green Associate exam, and even LEED APs that have a specialty but never took the LEED Green Associate exam must now pass the Green Associate exam to add another specialty.

The Green Associate and specialty exams can be taken back-to-back or at different times. Compared to the Green Associate exam, the LEED AP specialty exam dives deeper into the details a particular LEED rating system and covers facilitation of the certification process. It can help to have experience working on a LEED project prior to taking the specialty exam, but it’s not a requirement (like it was under LEED 2009).

Getting started

USGBC’s website is a good place to start learning about the LEED Green Associate and LEED specialty exams. The LEED AP Candidate Handbook is an essential resource that’s available on the website, along with free exam resources and study materials.

In addition, LEEDuser offers and recommends the following exam resources:

LEED-EBOM Readiness Review Questions

  • Is there a LEED AP with the O+M specialty on the project team, or available to the project team through the facility management team, or as a consultant? The LEED AP O+M needs to be involved as a “principal participant” from the start of the project, according to the credit language. Since the LEED certification process relies on detailed understanding of LEED, having a LEED AP O+M on board benefits the project and can save significant time and effort, while earning your project a point with this credit. 
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