Veritas Communications - Toronto - Jan 2008 Non exclusive, unlimited time license for print & web to Winn Concrete Surfaces - 905-881-1916
Veritas Communications - Toronto - Jan 2008 Non exclusive, unlimited time license for print & web to Winn Concrete Surfaces - 905-881-1916

Getting the details correct is important in business. For instance, can a product be certified for its contribution to sustainability? Is it LEED or LEEDS?

Judging by what Amanda Tullos, LEED AP and principal with GreeNexus Consulting in Bellaire, Texas, sees and hears, many people do not understand the simple basic principals of the nation’s green building certification program.

“I have heard so many product representatives say ‘LEEDS,’ and that products are ‘certified,’ she says. “These are immediate indicators that they do not have the basic knowledge.”

The answers are: The name is simply LEED, without an s. Also, a product can contribute to a project’s LEED certification, but the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) does not certify individual products.

Eighteen years after the USGBC was founded, vendors and contractors still slip up on such simple concepts as LEED being the proper acronym for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, and whether or not a product can be certified. It is imperative to know these answers and more, not only if you are working to specify polished concrete on a LEED project, but for other types of concrete construction.

In 2009 the USGBC changed its education program to assist contractors and vendors. The first professional offering from USGBC was a certification to become a LEED AP, or accredited professional. This program was for everyone to gain knowledge and accreditation from USGBC, whether this person is a design professional, contractor, manufacturer, or owner.

Today, there is a differentiation based on a person’s needs, and how someone interacts with the LEED community. The LEED AP designations now are known as Legacy LEED AP for those who opted to stay with the original program, and LEED AP+. This indicates a person not only has proven he or she understands green building practices, but also has proven knowledge of specialization in a particular field. The current specialization categories are Interior Design & Construction, Homes, Operations & Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, and Building Design & Construction.

A new accreditation

The world has become simpler for concrete contractors and manufacturers with the addition of the LEED GA, or Green Associate accreditation. This indicates someone has a broad knowledge of the LEED program.

“The LEED Green Associate credential denotes basic knowledge of sustainable design, construction, and operations,” says Heather DeGrella, LEED AP and director of sustainable education for GreenCE in its Ridgefield, Wash., office. The study platform is not as rigorous as the AP+, but it provides someone with the ability to interact and respond to clients in a well-informed manner. Like LEED AP+, this program contains an annual education requirement within the certification.

Both Tullos and DeGrella believe polished concrete is a natural fit for properties designed to earn LEED certification, whether they are certified Platinum, Gold, Silver, and or Certified. “A value-driven case for polished concrete would include durability and practicality,” says Tullos. “And if a concrete floor is already being employed, why not polish it and be done, rather than pay for a whole other layer of finish?”

DeGrella agrees, and adds aesthetics and “possible integration of passive heating strategies due to the thermal mass of concrete.” In the future version of the program, which will be LEED 2012, both expect to see a greater focus on certification of recycled content, along with increased use of life cycle assessments.

USGBC and its LEED program are not static entities and are always changing. This can frustrate someone who has just caught up and learned the details. For example, a major change recently occurred with the creation of the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) within USGBC. With this change, USGBC is responsible for developing and maintaining the LEED Rating System, while GBCI administers LEED Accredited Professionals and LEED Building Certification.

Education credits

These changes provide contractors and manufacturers an additional opportunity to provide education and training to the architectural community, in addition to the current American Institute of Architects (AIA) programs. But they also expand the group requiring education credits. DeGrella notes, “LEED-credentialed individuals go far beyond just architects to include contractors, owners, facility managers, and more.”

“GBCI education (Credentialed Maintenance Program) and AIA education (Continuing Education System) are largely overlapping concentrations,” says Tullos. “Within LEED-specific hours that are required for GBCI credentialing maintenance, a focus specific to LEED strategies is required. Having an education program that achieves LEED CMPs is very much in demand right now.”

Educating yourself and your clients can be a strong foundation for your success and continued growth. The demand for your ability to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse while converting plain old concrete to a beautiful, sustainable floor will continue to grow as the world’s population increases and continues to stretch our resources.

Peter Wagner is a frequent contributor to Concrete Surfaces and is owner of Concrete Flooring Solutions. Email