Only 1.6% of Legacy LEED AP's Have Opted Into New Credentialling Program

So I was browsing through the GBCI's LEED AP directory the other day and noticed how few LEED AP's had a specialty listed next to their status. It's been exactly 7 weeks and one day since 'legacy' LEED AP's were able to upgrade to the new credentialing maintenance program (see my questions and concerns about the benefits of such a move here), and I thought it would be interesting to figure out how many have made the plunge into the new credentialing system. After running some numbers I've estimated that less than 1.6% of legacy LEED APs have moved into the new program.


Maytag Man Considering Whether Clients Will Notice LEED-AP Appliance Operations + Maintenance Specialty

If we keep up at this rate (roughly .8%/month), less than 20% will have opted in by the start of the next credentialing cycle two years from the start of the program. I suspect that many of you, like myself, are simply holding out to get a better feel for the new program as the USGBC/GBCI figures it out themselves. The alternatives are that (a) many people have no intention of switching over or (b) that people just haven't been paying attention. I don't really have any frame of reference for all this, but it seems like a slow uptake to me.

The Numbers Behind the Number

This is an incredibly boring explanation of the numbers, and I would suggest not reading them for that reason. At the same time, I get very frustrated when people make claims and show no data to back it up. As of 6:00 pm EST, 09.22.09, the GBCI directory listed the following:

  • Everyone (GA, AP, and AP w/ Specialties) - 122,527
    • Note that placement on this list is voluntary, and I've seen total AP's listed at 131,655 in a 09.09.09 email from the USGBC. My numbers just use GBCI published AP's, which should be a reasonable proxy for AP's at large.
  • LEED APs without specialty - 121,271
    • This number seems to include all previous LEED APs and those who have upgraded to the new system (i.e. those that now have a specialty as well). When you upgrade, the directory appears to list both your 'conventional' LEED AP designation as well as the specialty separately. I did not see anyone on this list with a LEED GA certification (implying they took the tests instead of just opting in). In other words, if we take this number and subtract only those with a specialty, we should get LEED APs who haven't upgraded, but I haven't found a sure way to separate this out.
  • LEED APs with specialty + LEED Green Associates - 3,156
  • LEED APs with specialty 'only' - 2,018
    • Presumably this would include both people who have taken the new tests and those that opted in. The figure for converts I've chosen simply takes this number and divides it by the the 122,527 'everyone' number above (1.64% conversion).
  • LEED Green Associates - 1,163
    • This should only be possible from taking the exam itself, but I've seen a few names that also listed the regular "LEED AP" designation as well, which is strange in that there doesn't seem to be any reason to take the GA test if you could just opt into the higher specialty??? Interestingly, 1163 + 2018 = 3181. Since a search looking for people with either designation yields 3156 hits, it suggests that there is only an overlap of 25 people (3181-3156=25), suggesting only 25 have so far passed both the LEED GA and a LEED specialty exam.

    You probably noticed all the assumptions above, and the directory left me with more than a little confusion since I couldn't separate out certain classes entirely. I put in an email to the USGBC for an official number, though I did so with hardly any advance notice. If I receive official numbers I'll be sure to post them, but it's clear that it's highly unlikely that more than 1.6% of legacy LEED AP's have opted into the new system.


Anonymous said...

The percentage seems low. But I also think its important to acknowledge that the intent was never to get everyone to switch. Quite the contrary, I think the intent is to separate out the field a bit. Now, it can be argued that the new credentials don't really mean much more yet. So where is the separation? That is still an issue that the USGBC needs to address.

With that said, its interesting to think about it this way: I would assume that the new credentials are geared towards those in the design, engineering and consulting professions. Those whose expertise in the intricacies of sustainable design have the most impact of the success of a project. I took a quick count off the website of these types of professions under the "wihout specialty" tag and it was somewhere around half of the total number of "without specialty" folks. For argument lets say 65,000.

Now take into account that for every LEED AP I know that has actually worked on a LEED Certified Project I know about 10 others that have never touched one. And these are LEED AP's that should really fall into the group above if they really want to lay claim to the title.

So it might be that the new credentials are really only targeting half of the existing LEED AP's out there. Now, of that of that group only a handful might actually have the project experience to qualify.

If you take the numbers that I pitched above, that would mean that out of only 6500 there are now 2018 signed up. That only leaves two thirds still trying to figure out if they want to do it or not.

I know, its magic math. But it worth considering some of these issues. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...


How do we know the 2,018 who have switched are all the active, design professionals? If I only wanted letters after my name to be more marketable, I'd be more likely to opt in. To some how somehow validate myself and to appear more marketable and cutting edge. I don't think you can assume all those who opt in are as you claim.

After 6 years I'd buy the arguement that most of those with specialty by then are more active in LEED. Who's going to go thru 3 cycles of continuing education if they're not using their status.

Sara Sweeney said...

My understanding was that GBCI would be sending out emails starting back in August to all LEED AP's, and at that point, you elect what to do. I also understood/inferred that these emails would be sent out in groupings, versus all at once to all 122,000 plus LEED AP's.

I may have misunderstood. I do know however, that a former client, with a last name beginning with a 'B' received such an email, which he forwarded to me, asking me to explain what he needed to do. Which I did. The email was quite specific as to the options a LEED AP could choose for credentialing and how to go about them. I have not received this email yet however; my last name starts with 'S.'

Anonymous said...

I have been a LEED AP for over a year and never received an e-mail from the USGBC about ipdateing to a specialized AP, however when I logged on to the GBCI website to check it out I found out I had been eligible to upgrade for a few weeks. 3 out of the 4 other LEED APs at my office never saw an email either. This might be another reason numbers are low?

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. As an attorney and LEED AP, I am truly torn about going through the signup process. I am not a design professional but am interested in keeping up with the latest to better advise my clients. I'm just not sure I need to opt in to keep up.

John Poole said...

I can't believe there are 122k LEED APs. That's huge. AT $400 for each test, plus all the study material, somebody is cashing in on this deal big-time.

Unknown said...

I drank the coolaid and enrolled in the CMP earlier this month. I took the plunge to serve as the office test rat for the office. I am quickly finding that GBCI approved CE courses are few and far between. I assume more will become available as the system evolves.

The dissapointing part is that all of the programs I have found cost money. Not just a few dollars, but $100's of dollars for webinars, workshops, etc. I'm hoping this changes or else I'll need to get a second job to support my CMP obsession.

Any other "Specialty APs" know where to find free CE material?

Anonymous said...

According to one of the USGBC webinars, you can earn CE hours by working on a LEED registered project. They specified that for each credit you personally complete and upload documentation for, you can get 1 CE hour, and get up to 10 hours using this method. Other methods they listed: Professional development/continuing ed courses, college courses, self-study (up to 5hrs), committee and volunteer work at events, and authorship. So between project work, volunteer work, and study hours you can totally get some free or cheap CE hours over the 2 year time period.

joelmckellar said...

Anon (the last one),

Which webinar are you referring to? I'd like to watch it...



Thomas said...

Joel, I echo ECox's comment above. I know that personally, your blog is my go-to source for accurate, down-to-earth LEED info. Seems to me if you could have a section on your blog where you post any FREE GBCI CE opportunities you run across, it would reach alot of people and be immensely apprerciated. All I have found is a few free ones on this list:

Anonymous said...

Joel, the Webinar Anon was talking about is located here:

The specific Webinar he was referring to was LEED Professional Credentials, but while long, all of them are worth watching. Every person is different but this was the easiest way for me to become educated about the LEED v3.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone opt into a system that has no definition or direction? Good grief, the USGBC wants to apply pressure and they can't even define what they are doing or where they are going. More importantly, what are they going to do to me that creates the incentive to sign into a system that costs money and strips me of the protections I currently have by never agreeing to being a model person and having to play nice to them. The only 'priveledge' I have they can take away is the ability to be the LEED AP on a project.

It appears more each day,as they continue to roll out their new CEU earning educational classes and materials, to be a cash cow for them - sorry, not at my expense.

karina said...

Cash cow is right. I picture the Peanut's Lucy at her stand offering 5 cent psychiatric help, but instead it's USGBC/GBCI (same murky organization) "offering" $200 to ask a question about their ill-conceived guide or $500+ to retort.

As many localities start to devise their own LEED alternative guidelines or change codes to produce effieciencies, I hope we can all move on from this disappointing diversion from achieving real progress in our building industry. There are other alternative programs out there that deserve more examination. LEED has had and lost its moment.

Guillaume M. said...

As of October 2009, in the GBCI CMP Enrollment Guide for Legacy AP without Specialization : on the last page :

All LEED APs without specialty (those credentialed under the LEED AP NC, CI, or EB exam tracks) will continue to hold the credential in perpetuity whether they choose to enroll in CMP or not. Additionally, if at any point, a LEED Professional who was credentialed under the LEED AP NC, CI, or EB exam tracks fails to maintain their LEED AP with specialty (or LEED Green Associate) credential, the may use the LEED AP without specialty title and logo again.
LEED APs without specialty who choose not to enroll will continue to appear as a LEED AP without specialty in the LEED Professional Directory without completing any credentialing maintenance or paying any fees. They may continue to use the title of LEED AP with no specialty designation afterward.
LEED APs without specialty may choose to enroll at any point during their enrollment window. After this period, if LEED APs without specialty want to become LEED APs with specialty, they must apply and take both parts of the LEED AP exam and are responsible for all applicable fees.

I think that clears things up a bit... Just hoping they won't change their mind in the near future...

joelmckellar said...

Very helpful... thanks!

Unknown said...

There is a two year window, as you said, that existing LEED APs can opt in. But once you opt in, which costs a small fee, you have to start doing CE courses (some of which could cost money). If you don't have to do that for two years, why would you? I think you will see a lot of people opt in at the last minute. It doesn't make much sense to do it now.

Anonymous said...

I'm an architect and a LEED AP and I can share my own reasons for not opting into the new program. The first is that I've already taken 10 professional exams: 9 architectural registration exams and 1 LEED AP exam. I'd have to be really convinced of the necessity of this upgrade to go back into testing mode.

Second, there is the cost for the exam and maintenance fees. Previous testing has cost around $1500, and I have annual AIA dues to pay, both local and national.

Third, I have to earn 18 continuing education credits each year for architecture....and I think I read that there is some sort of CEC requirement for the new LEED credentialling program. If I don't have to do this, well, I'd really rather not.

Lastly, I use LEED a lot. Different rating systems, and frequently, so I'm confident I'll truly be keeping myself up to date. I'd probably only test again if it became a marketing necessity.

joelmckellar said...

Last anon...

You don't need to retest anything to upgrade... as a current LEED AP you'd simply opt-in to the new version, though the maintenance fees you mention are indeed real.

Unknown said...

Joel - Your initial post indicates only three alternatives for not opting-in: 1) Awaiting more input from GBCI, 2) No intention of opting-in 3) Not paying attention. I propose option 4) Currently "between jobs" and hoping the 'legacy,' more generic 'LEED AP' designation shows employers A) I've been at this more than a few months, and B) I can do more than one type of LEED.

I figure if I get a job that uses my LEED knowledge and experience and requires specialization, I'll pick a specialty and add the extra letters. I took the NC exam and would default to BD&C, but if a new employer wants me to do O&M, I could take that exam and add those letters. I think GBCI has a process for petitioning to opt-in under a different credential (e.g. by demonstrating that the majority of my new work is EB/O&M, they would allow me to opt-in as O&M rather than the prescribed default BD&C) but I'd have to double check. Either way, I'll jump off that bridge when I get to it. How many others are in my boat?

I suspect the majority are in yours -- the evolution of this new credentialing system and its requisite fees and Continuing Education has been a bit scary to watch. It's been like the biggest beta-test of software ever imagined. But instead of software, they're testing a system of how to define people's "greenness." No wonder so few people have just opted-in without more input.

I'm rather surprised GBCI didn't post all the rules for member comment and review just as USGBC does with their new LEED products.

Anonymous said...

I signed up for the CMP in August. As the chair of our office sustainability committee, I'm constantly attending green seminars, so I figured I might as well go ahead and start getting some credit for them. Today was the first time I visited the self-report format on Let me tell you I am not pleased. Turns out that not only do you have to earn 30 hours in 2 years, those 30 are split into 7 specific categories. Each category has a minimum # of required hours. For instance, "project site factors" requires 4 hours, "project systems & energy impacts" requires 6. Once you pick from the categories, the format then requires you to be extra specific as to what sub-category the hour focused on. These categories were briefly touched upon in the CMP guide but not explained. And they certainly didn't mention that you would be forced to earn credits in all of these categories. They were presented more as "options" which they are not.
After finding out this additional information, I really wish I hadn't jumped in so early. Those that are thinking of waiting until the deadline before signed up have the right idea.

Bill Swanson said...

I just scanned GBCI's website and the number of LEED AP's with specialty is up to around 13,000. Looks like they bumped the number up to 10% now have enrolled into the CMP. It appears about half of them enrolled in the month of December. Their e-mail allowing the back dating of CE hours seems to have worked.

Unknown said...

Most of those people in the 2000+ with specialties are probably like me and come from the Beta test group for the GA and AP Specialty exam. I don't know of a lot of people who have taken the knew series. the rush to take the old one probably dried up the field for a bit.

Anonymous said...

I started reading this discussion to find out if anyone else either shared my concerns or could ease them. While I feel less alone, I am still looking for answers.

I appreciate what ECox had to say. I signed on to the new BD+C credential to see how it works and to make the best recommendation I could to our firm regarding getting the rest of our LEED APs into this credential.

When I got into the details of the education requirements, I found the system extremely complicated. Several of the various activity categories that offer CE Hours are not practical for most APs that I know. Realistically, I don't count on "Authorship", "College and University Courses", or "Certificates, Professional Licenses and Credentials" to be the bulk of anyone's CE Hours. Doing the math, I find the restrictions placed on how many Continuing Education Hours per reporting period to be forcing APs into ERB-approved courses. Looking at the course catalog, these courses have limited availability, many are of long duration and are generally cost-prohibitive. Beyond that, the free 100 and 200 level courses aren't as helpful in advancing experienced APs. The further breakdown of learning units required in self-reporting (as "Anonymous" stated above) compounds this.

As much as I have supported LEED and AP education, I don't feel that I can recommend that my peers upgrade until I see some more opportunity for either free ERB-approved courses, the CE hour restrictions are relaxed, or perhaps, the industry sees this need and fills it by spending the money to get their "AIA HSW SD" courses approved by an ERB.

I'm curious how large firms with many APs are addressing this.

LEED has been a powerful force to date and I am only ranting because I care. I am open to any solutions that any of you might offer.


Unknown said...

I absolutely agree with Anonymous, as I am in nearly exactly the same position. Even if I can get 10 (max. allowed) hours for LEED Project Participation, 5 (max. allowed) from Self-Study and 5 (max. allowed) from Live Presentations, that is only 20 hours. I still need 10 to make the requirements. Short of spending thousands on college courses or writing a book, I am not sure how I will make up those 10 hours. Even if I joined a volunteer organization, and I could add the 4 (max.) hours to that, I still need 6. How does the GBCI expect anyone to complete these credit hours? It's more stringent than the AIA requirements. It's really a shame. Most of the people in my office took one look at these requirements and have decided to not enroll unless the sytem changes, especially since you keep your LEED AP status if you do nothing and pay no fees. I might even suggest to people to let their credentials expire, then retest under the LEED GA system, credential maintenance is cut in half if you go that route. Maybe that is what they are trying to force people to do, without actually saying it??!!!

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to know the percentages of LEED AP's with particular specialties.

Are there more New Construction people? or Existing buildings?

That sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

You are good! As of 11-17-2010 the # of LEED AP+ is about 20% of all LEED APs.