On Friday, I took and passed the LEED Green Associate exam. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a certification program for buildings. People can also become accredited, meaning they are knowledgeable about Environmentally friendly design and the LEED certification process.

While the exam was not technically difficult it required a decent amount of studying, and learning some new concepts.

Prior to the start of a project, but after the project team is selected, the U.S. Green Building Council (the organization that develops LEED) recommends holding a a design charrett with all the project team members. The point of this focused design meeting, is to work out large scale concepts that affect many parts of the design and construction process. The charrett should include owners, architects, structural/civil engineers, MEP and HVAC engineers, and contractors. This integrative approach aims to get different system within the building to work more efficiently together. For example, if a more air tight facade is in place, then a smaller HVAC system will be required.

Another important skill I learned about is analyzing the full cost of material, from extraction, through manufacturing, use, and to either the landfill or reuse in a new application. LEED calls the process of examining the cost and savings over the life of a product Life Cycle Costing, and the process of examining indirect costs to society and the earth as well as direct costs to the owner a Life Cycle Analysis. The point of these methods is to think beyond the upfront cost of a product.

A design feature that is emphasized in LEED is the comfort of employees and other users of the building. The idea is that when people are comfortable and healthy, they are more productive. To increase health and occupant comfort LEED credentialing recommends Using daylight, zoned temperature control, limiting volatile organic compounds that release from the majority synthetic products. Additionally, LEED offers points for giving as many work spaces as possible views out windows, and user controlled lighting.

I learned a lot while studying for the exam, and it has changed the way I think projects should be approached. I hope that when I finish school I will have the opportunity to work on a LEED project so I can put the things I learned into use.