Continuing GreenHomeNYC volunteer Brian Rahm’s reflections on his path to becoming LEED AP. In part one, Brian discusses the training materials for the exam, including the The Green Building & LEED Core Concepts Guide.
With my Core Concepts Guide in hand, I set about trying to determine if I was eligible to take the exam.
Without documented eligibility, it is not possible to even attempt to take the exam. To be eligible requires at least one of the following conditions be met: that you have previous experience on a LEED project; that you work in a “sustainable” field of work – a clear definition of which I was never quite able to gather; or that you take an approved course. If you are like me, and you qualify for neither of the first two options, then the only remaining option is to take a course.
What course to take? There are several options, and it is hard to know which is best. I list a few below:
The LEED 201: Core Concepts and Strategies online course is a half-day auto-tutorial. It is also the cheapest at $145/175.
The LEED 205: Green Buildings & Preparing for LEED Green Associate online course starts at $695 and includes some added features such as a facilitated discussion with LEED faculty, as well as copies of the Green Building & LEED Core Concepts Guide and the USGBC LEED Green Associate Study Guide.
Daylong seminar courses taught by third-party instructors start at $325 and are offered here in NYC frequently. Judging by the description on the USGBC website, these seminars appear similar in content to the LEED 201 online course.
In my eyes, the $695 LEED 205 course was prohibitively expensive, and I ruled it out right away. LEED 201, however, was in my price range. The descriptions of both the online course and in-person seminar variations seemed quite similar to me, so it simply came down to price. I saw no need to have someone lecture me on material I could just as easily read myself, so I signed up for the online course thinking that my test preparation would soon be complete.
The online course is well done and easy to view and follow. With respect to content, however, it isn’t terribly different from the Core Concepts Guide. Like the Guide, the online course offers case studies and highlights general principles of green building without getting into much detail. A few exam-style questions are thrown in here and there. The exam itself, however, is barely so much as mentioned.
The Real Reality
It wasn’t until a week later that I realized my mistake. I got together with a friend who was also taking the exam, but who had decided to attend the in-person seminar rather than take the online course as I had done. My friend had flash cards, a study notebook, and access to several practice tests, none of which came as part of the online course I had taken. My friend’s notebook contained information I had never seen before, the flash cards were a challenge, and I did poorly on one of his practice tests. Looking back, I can only say that the online course was disappointing and, like the Core Concepts Guide, did little to actually prepare me for the exam.
The Bottom Line
I would highly recommend taking the in-person seminar course. The practice exams alone are well worth the extra money you will spend. Additionally, the in-person course seems to have been put together with the specific requirements of the exam in mind. It was helpful in taking some of the mystery out of the process. Of course, if you have a friend who is going through this process with you, as I did, it may be economic to buddy-up and share the resources without having to pay the full cost. Needless to say, I owe my friend a beer.