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On the value (?) of certifications …

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The topic of certifications keeps coming up. Many people see certifications as a way of getting folks in the workforce better-qualified to deliver greener projects, greater energy savings, etc. This is a laudable goal, but I see a sizable gap between the intent and the outcomes. Great opportunity for a RANT! (A favorite pastime of mine.)

I’m not a big fan of certifications. What I see is that major ones (e.g., as required for doctors, lawyers, architects, CPAs, psychologists, et al.) are truly rigorous and add social value. Those I see in the building industry, by contrast, often lack in rigor and spawn petty bureaucracies that tend to become, over time, primarily interested in their own institutional viability — probably because there’s not enough societal interest (numbers of people/certifications) to generate sufficient moola to support true rigor. So we have a proliferation of niche, pseudo-professional certifications serving relatively small populations. The certifications are typically too easy to obtain, so lots of people within the niche get them and the certifications become somewhat meaningless through dilution. Some are simply too easy to get in the first place, relative to the “claim” stated or implied by the certification.

Cases in point: USGBC/GBCI’s LEED AP and (California) Build It Green’s Certified Green Building Professional. Neither requires substantial green building knowledge or experience. Names matter — at least the LEED AP limits its “claim” to knowledge of LEED, whereas “Certified Green Building Professional” suggests a breadth and depth of expertise that is much greater than what is required to earn the title (a modicum of experience in the building industry and completion of a two-day course).

I know — so easy to criticize, so much more difficult to come up with robust solutions! I don’t have the robust solutions, sad to say, but I believe they lie in broad-scale education of both the public and those in the building trades and professions.

‘Nuf ranting for now …

P.S. Lest any fair reader take umbrage at the aspersions I have cast upon credentials they may bear, I assure you that I do speak from experience. I, too, have earned the merit badge of LEED AP and was (until recently, and voluntarily, giving it up) a CGBP.

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  • Published: 6 years ago on January 30, 2013
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  • Last Modified: January 30, 2013 @ 8:59 pm
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About the author

green building consultant; owner/founder, Design AVEnues LLC

Ann V. Edminster, M. Arch., LEED AP, is a leading green building consultant, speaker, teacher, and author. Her recent work and award-winning book, Energy Free: Homes for a Small Planet, focus on net-zero energy homes. Ann has taught for groups including AIA, USGBC, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison. Ann’s consulting clients include major builders, software companies, design firms, developers, public agencies, utilities, investors, and homeowners. She has held key roles on numerous award-winning residential projects of all types.

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