To gain an edge in the growing field of environmental sustainability and property law, and to better assist the increasingly large number of corporate clients with high profile sustainability policies, attorneys of all types are increasingly seeking to become LEED Accredited Professionals, or LEED APs. Indeed, with green building quickly becoming written into law across the United States, real estate attorneys, investors, construction and operations professionals are finding that understanding green building may be critical to ensuring that client sustainability goals are achieved.
One time fat and happy green law pioneers who had carved out niche practices serving eco-focused clients, are now finding themselves under pressure to compete and stay current. Understanding the nuances of sustainability law requires constant study as more law firms add "LEED AP" to their credentials and launch practice groups focused on green businesses. While the sustainability industry has been relatively recession-proof, lawyers are preparing themselves for when the real estate industry returns to its former strength, with green building expected to become the norm.
A recent study by McGraw-Hill forecasts that the entire green building market (both residential and commercial) may more than double from approximately $36-$49 billion to $96-$140 billion by 2013. In percentage terms, when looking solely at the commercial and institutional real estate development markets, the green building market is projected to grow from it's current 10-12% of the market to 20-25%.
According to noted green building professional Jerry Yudelson, the green building industry is expected to grow at a rate of over sixty percent (60%) in 2009 on a cumulative basis. This is due to many factors, not the least of which is President Barack Obama's strong focus on green jobs, energy efficiency, new green technologies and renewable energy. Green building scholars expect the trend to last at least as long as President Obama's first term, and hopefully, they say, through 2017. Within the next two years, President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package is touting that it will create or save about 3.5 million jobs in America. Of the $787 billion, approximately $83 billion is targeted for green jobs, or jobs that are a byproduct of the U.S.' renewed focus on energy independence. Energy independence will help us live in more energy efficient ways that will save money, reduce waste and benefit the bottom line for years to come.
Professionals seeking LEED Accreditation are required to pass an examination that tests a deep understanding of the green building practices and principles put in place by the United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. The LEED AP exam was launched in 2001 to recognize, through accreditation, individuals’ understanding of green building practices and principles and a high level of familiarity with LEED requirements.
By most accounts, the exam is a bear. Some attorneys compare its rigor with the experience of studying for the bar exam. Many aspiring LEED APs find themselves passing the exam only after months of study and strategies for passing the exam vary widely. Formal online preparation courses exist which allow a candidate to follow his or her own schedule for study, while offline LEED Exam Prep courses are offered that require a significant commitment of time and more money. Online LEED study guides and flash cards also extremely useful, as are online LEED Practice Exams.
While newly minted LEED APs report that the test requires focus on things they have learned in their practice, as well as memorization of the entire LEED building certification process, they report that the biggest impediment was finding the time to study. Indeed, this may serve to limit the number of lawyers seeking the LEED AP credential.
The amount of LEED-related work may now be relatively small, but most lawyers view the accreditation as a long-term investment.