LEED Professionals Top Engineering Awards

Thu, 2015-05-21 10:19

Consulting-Specifying Engineer announced its list of 40 Under 40 award winners last week. Consulting-Specifying Engineer is a trade publication and website for professional engineers who design mechanical, electrical, electronic, and related systems for commercial, industrial, and institutional projects. Now in its eighth year, the 40 Under 40 program honors building industry professionals, each of whom nominated by a mentor, who have demonstrated superior dedication to their profession, as well as leadership skills and volunteerism in their community and industry.

Although their professional titles are diverse – vice president, director, general manager, president, CEO, principal, and many others – one common theme among the 40 Under 40 winners were their ties to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. As I was reviewing the list, I noticed that many of the winners held a LEED professional credential after their name. After research, I discovered that 62.5% of the honorees held a LEED AP BD+C or a LEED AP credential. Why do you think that is?

LEED Professionals in 40 Under 40 List

The Rise of LEED Among Engineers

Building projects around the world either give serious consideration to incorporating sustainability or actually make the commitment to pursue a LEED Certification. Therefore, building industry professionals, such as architects and engineers, must be conversant in the topics related to sustainability and green building.

Engineers, in particular, are already responsible for evaluating structural systems for recycled content, local material content, and overall efficiency. Deciding to learn about LEED and applying that knowledge to sustainable building projects is merely an extension of what engineers already do.

LEED Certification emphasizes sustainable initiatives such as green roofs, solar PV arrays, storm water collection systems, heat recovery, and sophisticated building envelope solutions that all indirectly affect the structural design. These features have a significant impact on the building framing, therefore many engineers see the relevance in pursuing a LEED credential as a means of better assessing and implementing these solutions into their building projects.

LEED-accredited engineers can practice flexibility and innovation when they approach clients about their building projects. What they bring to the table are alternative ideas that complement the green building goals of the architects, design professionals, and building contractors. Engineers, specifically those with a LEED AP BD+C credential, have the expertise to provide enhanced advice regarding HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems in high-performing, energy-efficient buildings.

How Engineers Can Use LEED

There are a multitude of ways that engineers can incorporate LEED and sustainability into their building projects. Here are a few examples of ways that engineers can take their knowledge to the next level and provide new services to their clients:

  • LEED Sustainable Design Charrettes – A charrette refers to a collaborative session in which design professionals and their clients draft project goals for sustainable design and outline a plan for achieving those goals. Engineers with knowledge of the LEED Certification process will be able to use the LEED rating system as a checklist for achieving (or exceeding) those goals. This is a great opportunity for engineers who want to use their knowledge and expertise in sustainability to become leaders and facilitators on LEED-registered projects. This level of awareness, organization, and proficiency ensures that the project remains on pace and within budget.
  • LEED Consulting and Documentation – Similarly, an engineer working on a LEED certification project will be better equipped to identify and integrate viable sustainable design strategies into new construction or existing facilities over a colleague who is less familiar with LEED. One key component to earning LEED certification for a building project is the documentation; an engineer familiar with LEED will be an important resource for organizing, preparing, and submitting the official LEED documentation. It’s best for the team leader to be LEED accredited so that he/she can competently describe the project in question and submit the project for consideration in the appropriate LEED categories.
  • Energy Modeling – Saving energy (and energy-related expenses) is often a top goal for buildings that pursue LEED certification. An engineer fluent in LEED will be able to use sophisticated software to project annual energy consumption and costs and to determine whether the project will meet the energy efficiency prerequisites as outlined in the LEED rating system.
  • LEED Commissioning – A LEED-accredited engineer will be able to verify that the HVAC, plumbing, electrical, lighting, wastewater, etc. systems achieve the project requirements as designed by the architect and compliant with the intended level of LEED certification.

These are just a few of the actionable ways that engineers can incorporate LEED knowledge into their jobs.


As I noted above, there were a variety of 40 Under 40 honorees with either a LEED AP or a LEED AP BD+C credential. You may be wondering what the difference is. It’s quite simple.

A LEED AP, or LEED Accredited Professional, is someone who passed the LEED exam prior to 2009. At that time, there was only one level of LEED accreditation, and it was called LEED AP.

LEED AP BD+C logoIn 2009, the U.S. Green Building Council revamped its LEED credentialing process and split the LEED AP into three tiers. The first tier is LEED Green Associate, the next level is LEED AP with Specialty, and the top level is LEED Fellow. When this change occurred, there was a grace period for LEED APs to opt into the new system and become a LEED AP with Specialty. All they had to do was pay a fee and commit to ongoing continuing education activities. Those who did not opt into the new system did not lose their LEED accreditation – they simply became known as LEED APs forevermore. A LEED AP who now wants to opt into the new system must start from the beginning with the LEED Green Associate accreditation, which is fair, since the LEED standards have now been updated twice since a LEED AP probably passed his or her exam.

In regard to the 40 Under 40 list, where 25 of the winners held a LEED credential, 44% had the LEED AP BD+C credential and 56% had the LEED AP. By the way, LEED AP BD+C stands for LEED AP Building Design and Construction, which refers to new construction or major remodel projects.

It’s nice to see that so many building professionals have made the commitment to environmental stewardship and that Consulting-Specifying Engineer has recognized their achievements. Congratulations to this year’s list!