The LEEDers and the Followers

This morning I put myself through something no normal person willingly endures - two strenuous hours of Saturday morning standardized-testing. Grueling, to be sure, but the results were worth the stress. I'm now officially a LEED-accredited Green Associate!

So what does this mean, anyway? Besides the official privilege of using "LEED GA" after my name, I am now in a better position to work on sustainability-oriented projects and market myself as an architecture student and pre-professional who is knowledgeable about the standardized procedures of the government's USGBC programs.

But what does this REALLY mean. This whole sustainability "green-washing" and sudden rush for environmental concern? Sustainability is a very popular topic today, and it seems like every person and every corporation is trying to get their own edge or corner of the sustainability craze that's sweeping the United States. Businesses from Walmart to Herman-Miller are re-branding and re-marketing their practices as "Environmentally Friendly" and politicians are even beginning to talk about "Green Collar" jobs to jump start the white- and blue-collar slumps of the construction and financial economies.

So am I just playing right into the system? Does earning my LEED Green Associate accreditation make me anything more than a pawn in the larger schemes of the architecture industry, the latest economic trends, and the current political systems of the United States?

Thirty years from now, all architects who want to get any sort of government or corporate-sector job will HAVE to be LEED accredited. Period. It's the only way to survive. But is it any way to thrive, and is it even the best option to begin with?

Is it in the best interest of an architecture student to go with the flow and pursue LEED AP accreditation? Or is it better to go against the grain and be a rebel, traditional designer who doesn't need any sort of accreditation in order to practice?

These and many more questions are especially pertinent to architecture students and recent graduates/interns who are in desperate need of a job and will do almost anything to differentiate themselves from the pack. Does LEED accreditation act as a sort of measuring point giving employers preference in hiring procedures? Do students who have accreditation gain the upper hand in head-to-head employment competition?

I could talk about this for hours but I don't want to bore you. I hope to blog more about sustainability and the whole LEED system for later, but for now I'll just leave you with two these two questions -

What more is LEED than just a business-enhancing shiny object applied to a building? What does LEED do other than reward architects, designers, and clients for doing what they should already be doing in the first place?

Sustainably yours,
Nate Hammitt, LEED GA

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