October 6, 2015

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Exam

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, known as LEED, is a points-based certification system used to endorse green buildings. Out of a possible 110 points, green buildings are rated on their sustainability and impact to both people and environment. Green, or environmentally friendly, designs are essential to create a cleaner, more sustainable future. This certification applies to more than just the construction of green buildings; it affects every aspect of development from the landscape architect’s design to the operations management staff of older LEED certified buildings. There are myriad LEED professional accreditation examinations, which specialize in varying aspects of sustainability from building design to operations and maintenance.

The LEED concept was born in the year 2000 by the United States Green Building Council, also known as the USGBC. LEED has become an international operative with green building council projects in Canada, Brazil and 41 other countries according to the USGBC. Although the USGBC tracks projects, certification, membership and maintains development within LEED, the professional accreditation exams have been handed over to the Green Building Certification Institute, or GBCI as of 2008. The GBCI is a not-for-profit entity, which provides a multitude of LEED examinations in various specialties. Taking and passing these examinations endorses the professional as a LEED certified and is a prestigious marker of your environmentally aware professional practices.
There are diverse buildings and LEED certified professionals to be found. Professionals accredited in LEED may include architects and landscape architects to employ green thinking in the conceptual and design phases of public buildings, parks and even golf courses. Facility operations management staff, engineers and interior designers may employ LEED concepts during the development of a project or use their skills for the sustainment of older buildings. Construction and project managers may influence building materials that can decrease the environmental impact and conserve natural resources, decrease gas emissions and increase the health of your overall indoors environment. Lenders and real estate agents may also obtain LEED certification and can advocate for these sustainable sites. The government has ongoing LEED projects that involve public buildings such as schools and libraries.

LEED concepts are not restricted to government and public use buildings however, as independent retail stores, hotels and residences are gaining momentum in the green building concept. You do not have to start with a green building – LEED concepts an a building overhaul can conserve natural resources and decrease overall operating cost for independent sites. Something as simple as window design and placement may affect your electricity bill without your knowledge.

LEED certified professionals monitor the sustainability of sites through a point system reflecting nine categories of LEED performance. LEED certified professionals must have knowledge in the areas of sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, locations and linkages, awareness and education, innovation in design and regional priority. The last two categories, pertaining to innovation and regional priority, are bonus categories. The rest of the categories are essential in scoring and maintaining an environment within LEED standards.

LEED AP Building Design and Construction Examination

The AP Building Design and Construction Examination is a professional accreditation exam, which focuses on the green building principles of LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED registered projects are found all over the globe and signify buildings that conserve natural resources while improving the environment through innovation. This exam is one of five specialty certification tests offered by the Green Building Certification Institute, or GBCI. It is administered in two parts, which result in a certification as a LEED Green Associate as well as a LEED certified Building Design and Construction professional.

LEED AP Building Design and Construction ExaminationTest Development

The U.S. Green Building Council has spearheaded the international effort to go green building, and subsidized professional accreditation testing to GBCI. In conjunction with contracted psychometric professionals and subject matter experts, this test was created to test your knowledge, expertise and application of green building design and construction. People who carry this certification are considered the experts within this field.

Computerized Examinations

GBCI develops the Building Design and Construction Examination content, which is then provided to Prometric Computerized testing centers across the nation. The test is offered in English and French, and accommodations can be made for those with disabilities in accordance with the American Disabilities Act. Professionals who desire accreditation in this specialty must apply and register with GBCI to sit for the test. Fees are associated with application and test registration, with discounts given to members of the U.S. Green Building Council and full-time students.


Professionals must possess relevant and current experience with LEED projects for eligibility to take specialty certification examinations. For this AP specialty exam, the professional must be able to provide proof of employment in an active role on a LEED registered project within the last three years. Simply having training or experience on green projects will not meet the eligibility requirements for this specialty certification. Experience is verified by two means; you must either provide a letter of attestation or provide the link to the LEED registered project online. Having an active role on a project preferably means working on multiple stages of the LEED project in a full-time capacity, and holding a role with some measure of responsibility. If you use a letter to prove attestation you must carefully review the guidelines set forth by the GBCI. The letter must originate from someone in the capacity to judge your work – preferably a supervisor, project manager or a client. The GBCI routinely audits candidates at random; keep a copy of your verification information in case you are chosen.

Test Content

The AP Building Design and Construction exam is a two-part test, which can be taken during one sitting or at two separate times. The first half of the exam is dedicated to the Green Associate certification. If you have already taken and passed this broad-scope LEED certification then you will not need to take it again. The Green Associate certification exam will cover many aspects of green building including project design, construction, materials and environmental impact. It accounts for 85 multiple-choice style questions, which you have two hours to complete. For information on this certification examination see the article, “LEED Green Associate Examination”.

The second portion of this test acknowledges the specialty portion of green building certification. Also consisting of 75 multiple-choice style questions, you are given two hours to complete this portion of the exam. The test content is divided into nine sections, each with multiple subsections that delve further into each area of green building design and construction. The sections include questions on choosing site factors, water management, projected energy impacts, management of project materials, the indoor environment, innovation, project surroundings and the community impact.

LEED AP Operations and Maintenance Examination

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a name synonymous with green building. The LEED AP Operations and Maintenance examination is a professional accreditation test, used to identify experts within this specialty. LEED buildings are designed to conserve natural resources, improve the environment through design and decrease maintenance cost. This exam is one of five specialty certification tests offered by the Green Building Certification Institute, or GBCI. Passing this LEED AP specialty certification exam allows the professional to use the AP Specialty certification logo and places them at the forefront of their peers.

Computerized Examinations

Working together, this specialty exam content is developed by experts in the field of green operations and management. GBCI outsourced the actual examination process to Prometric centers, which are found nationwide. Test applications and eligibility are maintained through GBCI, with professional affiliation available through the U.S. Green Building Council. There are fees associated with both the application and test registration process; review the GBCI handbook carefully to see if you are eligible for a discounted rate. Members of the USGBC and full-time students receive discounts on their testing fees. Accommodations can be made for those with disabilities in accordance with the American Disabilities Act.


GBCI AP specialty examinations, such as the Operations and Maintenance exam, require expertise within the field with a documented history working on LEED registered projects. GBCI requires proof of employment on such a project at some point within the three years prior to application. You must have a supervisor, project manager, client or a similar professional construct a letter to affirm this employment experience, unless you have a LEED registered project number and the documentation can be found at LEED online. Your professional experience should reflect a leading role on the project including a contracted worker, consultant or member of the LEED team. There are specific rules regarding the body of the attestation letter; check the GBCI website for the documentation guidelines.

Test Content

This exam is administered in two, two-hour parts. The first half of the exam tests on overall knowledge of green building in the LEED Green Associate examination. The second portion tests on LEED Operations and Management, fulfilling the AP specialty portion of the exam. You can choose to sit for all four hours at once or complete it at different times. The Green Associate exam must be completed first however, unless you already hold a certification in this area. If you hold a current certification for Green Associate you will only need to take the AP specialty portion of the exam for Operations and Maintenance.

The LEED Green Associate exam will test your overall knowledge of green building from conception through construction. To become certified in this area you must possess a broad understanding of the LEED rating system including categories such as sustainability or innovation in design. This exam will explore your knowledge in the LEED application and registration process as well as project site factors, energy and water impacts and project materials.

The LEED AP Operations and Maintenance portion of the exam tests on your knowledge of green building sustainment. Four primary resources were used in developing the content of this test, which can be found in the GBCI test candidate handbook. This exam tests your knowledge on aspects of sustainability that incorporate factors such as climate, pest management and vegetation at the site. Sections tested include improvements to existing structures, such as ventilation systems, and conversion of existing buildings into useful structures. You will also be tested on water and energy management, including sources of renewable energy.

LEED Green Associate Examination

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a certification spearheading the environmentally sparing effort. LEED projects protect natural resources, such as water, while focusing on sustainable, cost-effective environments. LEED buildings are energy efficient and reduce gas emissions, creating a safer design for those both inside and outside of it. LEED professional accreditation examinations, such as the Green Associate Examination, distinguish passing candidates with a certification in green building. This exam encompasses a broad spectrum of LEED certification knowledge, and can be used as a stand-alone certification or in conjunction with one of the five specialty certification exams, such as the AP Home examination.

LEED Green Associate ExaminationTesting Administration

The Green Building Certification Institute, or GBCI, works in conjunction with the U.S. Green Building Council. Internationally known for their green building efforts, the two entities work together to advance the environmental solution across the globe. Professionals who desire accreditation in this field must apply and register with GBCI. Exams are subsidized through Prometric Centers throughout the U.S., and the Green Association Examination is offered in both English and French languages. Members of the U.S. Green Building Council and full-time students will receive a discounted price for this examination.


You must meet one or more of the eligibility requirements to take this examination through GBCI. These requirements include working on a LEED registered project, work or work history where you employed green technique or course completion in green building. You will need to provide either a letter of verification or official transcripts to attest meeting eligibility. Audits are routinely performed on a percentage of candidates; keep a copy of your eligibility information handy in case you are chose for an audit.

Test Overview

The LEED Green Associate Examination covers the basic green topics within seven areas of focus. Test questions are developed by experts working on LEED registered projects as well as monitored by psychology experts to verify validity and reliability of the testing content. The Green Associate Examination has 85 multiple-choice style questions, which are administered by a computer-based test. You will have two hours to complete the examination. Scores are usually given out 72 hours following the test. If you pass the Green Associate certification examination you may use the LEED Green Associate logo on business cards, assuming you keep your certification active. A minimum of 15 continuing education hours in green building is required biennially to maintain certification.

LEED Professional Accreditation Exams

The U.S. Green Building Council needs the efforts and experience of the professionals supporting the LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, concept. These professionals may have a combination of experience or extensive education in the green building concept, a fairly new approach to reducing the waste of natural resources and creating a healthier environment through sustainable designs.

Types of LEED Certification

There are two categories of LEED certification including examinations for professional credentialing and building certification for meeting LEED requirements for a sustainable, environmentally friendly green building. The professional accreditation examinations are offered in a multitude of LEED subspecialties, which can be used to complement your professional title. You may hold LEED certifications in multiple subspecialties, but you will have to pay the examination fee for each test.

LEED Professional Exams

The U.S. Green Building Council has outsourced professional examination for LEED to the Green Building Certification Institute, or GBCI. These professional examinations are available year round and are administered through computerized testing facilities at Prometric centers across the U.S. Once you apply for a LEED certification exam, your application is active for one year. You may test up to three times per one-year period using the same application. There is a fee associated with both applications and the actual test. Full-time students and those with professional affiliations to the USGBC are allowed discounted fee rate schedules. Prometric centers recognize the American Disabilities Act and can offer specialized testing for those with special medical needs, however this must be implied during your application process, not on test day.

Types of LEED Exams

GBCI offers professional advanced practice, or AP examinations in five specialties as well as a basic LEED Green Associate examination. All six of these tests have varying fees and eligibility rules, as well as different maintenance requirements to uphold your certification. The LEED Green Associate exam is a broad-spectrum certification covering topics in design, construction and maintenance of LEED certified buildings. The LEED AP Building Design and Construction exam tests on knowledge of high rise residential buildings, commercial and public green buildings. The AP Operations and Maintenance exam concentrates LEED knowledge for existing structures and the ability to use sustainable practices. The AP Interior Design and Construction exam focuses on the management of commercial and residential living spaces, such as the ability to decrease energy use through innovative designs. The AP Homes test covers residential, non-high rise builders and contractors in this specialty. Finally, the AP Neighborhood Development tests on the LEED certification of planning, constructing and maintaining sustainable residential developments.

Who Takes the LEED Exams

LEED accreditation exams result in a certification in LEED, which is a prestigious identifier for professionals who are practicing environmentally friendly approach to building design, construction and maintenance. Aside from education and LEED experience, there is no gold standard for exclusion from the LEED. Everyone with the designated amount of LEED project experience may sit for a certification test, from real estate agents to general contractors. However, the test is not free – preparation may reduce the fees associated with retaking a LEED exam.