First, we should not assume that all professionals who practice sustainability, or environmental stewardship, must be recognized or credentialed by any organization, as sustainability has been nurtured by architects, engineers and builders long before organizations created green building principles and rating systems. From the early cave dwellers to ancient Greek and Chinese civilizations, to the sustainable professionals today, we have been harnessing solar energy. These were, and continue to be, responsible pioneers in environmental stewardship to whom much is owed.
Professional knowledge and accreditation in the world of sustainability ranges from merely being able to talk-the-talk to having the capability to walk-the-talk. Sustainable professionals who talk-the-talk support green building design, construction and operations, having a basic knowledge of green building principles and practices (e.g., real estate agents, manufacturer’s reps, sales reps, mangers, attorneys, lenders, public officials, developers, etc.). Generally, these professionals neither require nor desire a higher technical skill level to function effectively in their respective professions and can achieve basic entry level credentialing through organizations such as the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and Green Advantage.
Professionals who walk-the-talk regularly participate in the design and construction phases of high-performance commercial, institutional, high-rise residential buildings and single family residences (e.g., designers, architects, engineers, landscape architects, environmental engineers, maintenance personnel, contractors/builders, etc.). They exhibit a high level of technical and construction knowledge and are involved in the everyday creation and delivery of sustainable projects. To successfully walk-the-talk, sustainable professionals must deal with many complex decisions when working on sustainable or certified projects. For both non-residential projects and residential projects, they have to work within the constraints of green building codes or green rating systems, as well as their client’s budget or degree of environmental interest.
GBCI offers LEED credentialing at several levels and disciplines. At the Tier I level (talk-the-talk) is the LEED Green Associate. The highly skilled Tier II levels (walk-the-talk) offer credentialing for several disciplines: LEED AP BD+C (Building Design & Construction); LEED AP O+M (LEED AP Operations & Maintenance); LEED AP ID+C (Interior Design & Construction); LEED AP Homes (LEED AP Homes); LEED AP ND (LEED AP Neighborhood Development). There is also the Tier III level, reserved for the LEED AP Fellow, sustainable professionals who must be nominated by their peers after meeting a collection of mandatory requirements. For the professionals credentialed prior to June 2009 before LEED v3 was implemented, they can remain a LEED AP, and be referred to as a legacy LEED AP, or they may opt into the new credentialing system via the GBCI Credential Maintenance Program (CMP).