The Green Building Certification Institute changed its approach to LEED Accreditation in Summer 2009. Those who have achieved LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) status prior to the change will have to choose a specialty -- Operations + Maintenance (O+M), Building Design + Construction (BD+C), or Interior Design + Construction (ID+C). O+M corresponds to the old LEED for Existing Buildings, BD+C to LEED for New Construction, and ID+C for Commercial Interiors. However, APs do not have to choose the specialty that corresponds to the test that they initially passed. They can elect another specialty, provided they take and pass the examination for that specialty or fulfill the requirements of the Prescriptive Credential Maintenance Program for that specialty.

If you earned your accreditation prior to the change and you've been too busy reducing your carbon footprint to choose your specialty, there's still time to do so under the new system. Existing LEED AP's who have not elected among O+M, BD+C, or ID+C have until Summer 2011 to make a selection. LEED APs who choose not to select a specialty, will still retain their LEED AP designation, albeit one without a specialty.

LEED AP's with specialties will have to either take the new tests for their selected specialty or comply with the Prescriptive Credential Maintenance Program. Under the latter, LEED AP's will have to earn thirty hours of green building-related continuing education per selected specialty over a two year period (i.e., if you wish to have specialties in both BD+C and O+M, you will have to take sixty hours of green building-related continuing education). Of those thirty hours, six must be LEED-specific and relate to the chosen specialty. The continuing education hours are divided among eight categories: 1) professional development course; 2) live presentations; 3) self study programs; 4) college and university courses; 5) passing an examination for certification, licensure or credentialing in a green building-related industry or profession; 6) committee and volunteer work for an organization supporting the LEED system; 7) authorship of a green building-related work; and 8) Paid or unpaid participation in a project registered for LEED certification.

LEED AP's self-certify their compliance with the Prescriptive Credential Maintenance Program in their online profiles with the GBCI. There will, however, be random audits, so it's important that APs keep record of their hours and stay honest in their reporting. Even after APs complete the Prescriptive Credential Maintenance Program so as to be fully phased in to the new regime, they will have a continuing education requirement to maintain their specialty.