Thoughts On Passing My LEED Exam

Yesterday I sat for and passed my LEED Green Associate exam on the very last day before my registration expired. That’s right folks, literally one full year of procrastination (not that I haven’t been busy).

I’m proud but also wary. This felt like something I had to do professionally. There are so many job postings that request LEED accreditation, but so few of them actually have anything to do with building. My masters degree in Built Ecologies is a much stronger certification, but a little harder to explain. LEED is easy branding, bite-size sustainability, that has started to stand in for something much bigger than itself.

My first encounter with LEED was in the mid-aughts at Metropolis magazine. I keep thinking back to how exciting it was then. For some reason Carlie Bullock-Jones, who was the LEED specialist for Interface’s groundbreaking showroom in Atlanta, kept coming to mind. Her 2007 talk at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair with its roots at Auburn’s Rural Studio and talk of integrated design process and documentation as a tool for staying on track made LEED seem so COOL. (I had to transcribe that speech, which might account for it lodging in my brain.)

Today LEED is beleaguered by lawsuits and backlash. Architects in the know dismiss it as bureaucracy, knowing that they can design green buildings just fine without it. Those on the cutting edge of architectural technology are aghast at the low bar for innovation. Citizens expecting miracles don’t care that they have to participate, maybe turn off a light or two, in order to keep a green building working properly. And on the parallel road of sustainable business where building principles might be less important than branding, those lawsuits are enough to make it seem useless.

I don’t think that LEED is the real problem though. There is nothing controversial about its content. It relies heavily on industry respected codes and best practices, and has done a really good job of publicizing the importance of a greener built environment. The real problem is that LEED has bitten off more than it can chew and because of it everyone else is getting lazy. Nothing that bureaucratic can replace critical thinking.

So I feel funny about having bought in (and when I say bought, yes, the whole experience was time consuming and expensive). I’m curious what this will do for me, and hopefully in my eagerness to find out, good things will come.


About Daniela

Daniela Morell holds a Masters in Architectural Science with a concentration in Built Ecologies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Center for Architecture Science and Ecology in New York City. Her writing, research, and design work is guided by a value system for sustainability that includes both the responsible use of energy and material resources, as well as the social need for design to inspire more ecologically balanced living.
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