LEED Green Associate

If you are interested in a career in green building, the LEED Green Associate credential is the ultimate starting point. LEED Green Associates have a fundamental understanding of building sustainability.

The Green Associate credential is administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), but the exams cover the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating systems, which are developed by the US Green Building Council.

Free LEED Green Associate Exam

Since LEED is the most popular green building rating system in the United States and has certified buildings in 140 countries, the LEED Green Associate credential is well-recognized by employers in the green building and sustainability industries.

Earning the credential could boost a professional’s chances of landing a new job because it demonstrates a knowledge of green building and LEED, as well as an interest in sustainability and the drive to pursue additional education to help his or her career.

What’s Does the Green Associate Exam Cover?

The LEED Green Associate credential is the Tier I credential that demonstrates knowledge of green design, construction and development concepts. (The Tier II credential is the LEED AP, which is a more specialized, advanced credential). 

LEED Green Associates are tested on the fundamentals of building sustainability including synergistic opportunities and the LEED application process, project site factors, water management, project systems and energy impacts, the acquisition, installation and management of project materials, stakeholder involvement in building innovation, project surroundings and public outreach. 

The exam covers the fundamentals of the LEED rating systems, including Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs), prerequisites and credits. (However, the questions about these are much less in-depth than those on the LEED AP exams). The exam also tests on general green building concepts and principles, USGBC’s ideals, costs of green building, the LEED certification process, and LEED Online.

To earn the credential, individuals must pass the two hour, 100 question LEED Green Associate exam with a 170 (85%) or higher score. The questions are multiple choice and delivered via a computerized exam. The exams are taken in Prometric testing centers, which are located around the world.

For more detail on passing the LEED Green Associate exam, read the free LEED Green Associate Study Guide here.

How to Register for the LEED Exam

The LEED Green Associate exam formerly had eligibility requirements (proof of either green building education, LEED project experience or work in a sustainable field). Now, these eligibility requirements are no longer in place, so the test is open to nearly all candidates.

To sign up for the exam, simply follow these steps:

1. Create an account on GBCI.org.
2. Apply for the exam. Log into your account on GBCI.org and click on “My Credentials”. You can apply for the exam underneath “Credential Exams”. Your application should be approved (or not approved) in a week or less.
3. Register for the exam. Once your application is approved, you can log into your account on GBCI.org, click “My Credentials” and register for the exam. You should receive an email with a confirmation code within 48 hours. Usually it is very quick.
4. Schedule the exam with Prometric at a testing center near you. Use the code you received after registration to schedule your exam on Prometric’s website.
5. Study hard and pass the test!

How to Study: LEED Green Associate Practice Exams and Training

Poplar recommends studying for the exam using a good, concise study guide and practice questions (preferably in an exam simulator).

The LEED Green Associate exam covers a number of topics that are not directly addressed in the rating systems, but are important to USGBC, so a study guide is crucial to learning the information you need to know for the exam. A good study guide will cover all of the material that you need, but will be concise so that you can quickly and easily hone in on the information you need to memorize for the test.

In addition to the study guide, Poplar recommends taking as many practice tests as possible. Poplar offers members a number of free tools, including a free LEED Green Associate practice test. Practice tests are critical for assessing your knowledge of the material and types of questions that you will encounter on the test. We recommend studying and taking practice tests until you can pass them with a 95-100%, because this will give you a better chance of scoring an 85% on the actual exam. Take note of the questions you answer incorrectly and learn from your mistakes.

If you are completely new to LEED or green building, an in-person or online training may help you get up to speed on the concepts and rating systems. If you already have some knowledge or previous experience with LEED or green building, though, you may be able to skip the class and just use a good study guide to learn the material.

Other good study methods include using flash cards, listening to an audio study guide (especially good for auditory learners), and studying with a group.

The length of time to study is very much an individual thing, but it may take anywhere from 20 to 60 hours to learn and memorize all of the material. Poplar recommends about 30-40 hours of studying, or until you can pass the practice exams with a 95-100%.

LEED CMP: Maintaining the Credential

LEED Green Associates are required to maintain their credential by earning 15 hours of continuing education every two years. Of these 15 hours, 3 must be LEED-specific. All hours must relate directly to green building and/or LEED.

There are four main ways to earn continuing education hours, according to GBCI:

1. Education: Take courses from GBCI-approved providers, take self-reported courses that have not been approved, or attend courses at the Greenbuild Expo (from the US Green Building Council).

2. LEED Project Experience: Participate in a LEED registered project. If you do not have the opportunity to participate through work, you can participate through the LEED Project Experience Program.

3. Authorship: Publish original articles or books about green building or LEED. Learn more about writing for Poplar for continuing education credits.

4. Volunteering: Volunteer with a nonprofit organization dedicated to green building, such as USGBC, GBCI, a USGBC local chapter, or Habitat for Humanity.

A Green Associate must complete these hours biennially and report them to GBCI under “My Credentials” on GBCI.org.

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