AIA/CES & GBCI CE: A Comparison

by Keith Sanders, AIA

Keith Sanders, AIA

Founding member and Past President of the USGBC South Carolina Chapter President,
Keith Sanders Architecture & Consulting

Keith Sanders is a Registered Architect in South Carolina with over 30 years experience in the fields of construction and architecture.

Sustainability has been a focus of architecture practice for more than 30 years, and the AIA has provided resources and tools to assist its members in the design of environmentally responsible projects.  In 2009, the AIA Board of Directors modified the mandatory continuing education requirements for annual AIA membership to include 4 hours of education in sustainable design.  This move was to help practitioners respond to new expectations among clients and the community to address the issue of climate change and the impacts of buildings on carbon emissions, energy and water usage, resource depletion, and occupant comfort and well-being, among others.

Though the AIA no longer requires Sustainable Design (SD) learning units (LU), members must still satisfy a minimum of 18 LUs a year, of which 12 must be a structured activity and meet the Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) criteria. HSW subjects in sustainable design include those that focus on at least one of the topics found in the AIA COTE Top Ten measures of sustainability:

  1. Sustainable Design Intent and Innovation
  2. Regional/Community Design and Connectivity
  3. Land Use and Site Ecology
  4. Bio climatic Design
  5. Light and Air
  6. Water Cycle
  7. Energy Flows and Energy Futures
  8. Materials and Construction
  9. Long life/Loose Fit
  10. Collective Wisdom and Feedback Loops

AIA does not allow HSW credits for a self-designed activity – the activity must be developed and presented by a third party.

AIA/CES instructor-led courses are submitted to AIA for approval by recognized CES Providers on a completed “Form A.” The process is straightforward.  In addition to contact information, Provider number, course title, duration, and at least four clearly defined learning objectives, the core areas, descriptions, and categories are selected from among several checklists on the form.  No additional materials, i.e., handouts, PowerPoint presentations, etc. are required for submittal and review.

LEED Professionals (LEED APs) who are participating in the new Credential Maintenance Program (CMP), begun in 2009 and administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), must earn and self-report 30 hours (CE hours) over two years.  Six of the total 30 hours must be LEED specific.

LEED Professionals can earn CE hours through various activities, including:

  • Professional development/continuing education courses
  • Live Presentations
  • Self-study programs
  • College and university courses
  • Certificates, professional licenses, and credentials
  • Committee and volunteer work
  • Authorship
  • LEED project participation

There are limitations and maximum hours that can be earned in each of the above categories, i.e., CE hours earned as an attendee at live presentations or self-study programs may not exceed five hours per two-year reporting period, per credential, professional development and self-study must be approved by an Education Review Body (ERB), CE hours for LEED project participation are limited to ten per 2-year reporting period per credential.

Most LEED Professionals participating in CMP will have to earn CE hours through ERB-approved Professional Development Courses, a minimum of ten per 2-year reporting period.

GBCI initially made a call to various professional associations for proposals to become Education Review Bodies (ERBs) which would review courses to the quality standard GBCI set.  At the present time, USGBC is the only ERB.  Its Education Provider Program has the most rigorous course review processes in the industry and only review for green building subject matter.

Courses that are AIA approved are not automatically approved for GBCI CE hours. AIA’s review of green building subject matter is cursory and lacks many of the review parameters and standards that are the core of USGBC’s education review.  Likewise, USGBC approves courses that AIA would not approve as they are focused to professions outside of the design community.  However, design related courses approved by USGBC Education Providers will be automatically accepted for credit by AIA/CES.  These courses must still meet AIA/CES standards for Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW).

USGBC Education Providers who are also AIA/CES Providers report their USGBC approved courses to AIA under their CES Provider number.  USGBC Education Providers, who are not AIA/CES Providers, should have an AIA member self-report as a structured event.  AIA will accept these USGBC Education Provider approved courses for credit toward the AIA member requirements.

True reciprocity is probably not possible because AIA and USGBC have different requirements and have different subject matter focus.


Continuing Education

by Marc Warren, AIA

Marc Warren, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Project Architect, Quackenbush Architects + Planners

Warren has nearly 18 years of experience in design and project management in new, renovation, and LEED construction for a variety of commercial and institutional projects.

Architects continue to face a variety of unprecedented challenges as our industry evolves in these modern times.  We are facing the deepest recession in our lifetime, changes in project delivery methods, unpredictable pricing markets, increased competition, client demands, new software technologies, green building, continuing education requirements, liability issues…Whoa, I am getting dizzy just thinking about it.  Why did I want to be an Architect?

Go to your happy place…Fallingwater…The Chrysler Building…Farnsworth House…The Sydney Opera House…
I am starting to feel better…Kimbell Art Museum…Schroder House…Villa Savoye…

Now I remember.  I want to inspire an be inspired.  I want to feed my soul through architectural expression.  I wanted others to experience space the way Architects do.  I certainly remember those college days of learning about new things and being inspired by visiting some great Architecture.  The last thing I wanted was to be weighed down by all of these other issues.  But, as Architects we have a responsibility to both the Art of Architecture and the Practice of Architecture, and only through the marriage of both can we truly create great work.  So, through it all we must take the burden of these day to day issues and turn them into something that can feed both the technical requirements of Architecture and the Artist side in all of us.  After all, I want to be inspired again.

Architecture, in some ways, is a very strange profession.  We have all worked on projects that last for several years and yet our skills and knowledge change from the time that we start a project until its completion.  The process of learning new ideas, ways of doing things, technologies–only furthers our ability to do great work.  But, many things can and do change in the space between beginning and end.  Our challenge is to develop these new skills when they can be most useful to us during the process.  If used effectively, continuing education can provide us with the learning opportunities when we need them the most.  Unfortunately, most architects treat continuing education like a requirement rather than an opportunity.  We attend seminars, office lunches and even AIA conferences to get our mandatory CEU credits for renewed licensure.

My challenge to you is to seek out continuing education opportunities to meet your needs in your day to day working life.  Want to learn new software?  Then seek out continuing education opportunities that allow you to effectively learn the software while satisfying continuing education requirements.  Want to become an expert in moisture and air barriers (you must be a real thrill seeker)?  Then look for those opportunities.  I promise you that they are out there.  The point is simple, develop a continuing education plan.  Decide what you want to focus on and seek out those opportunities rather than attending just any continuing education seminar that comes along.  Once you have a continuing education plan in place, deciding which seminars to attend becomes an easy decision.

AIA South Carolina does a great job of developing the Annual Conference around the most current hot topics.  The planning committee meetings have spirited discussions about the type of educational opportunities that it wishes to offer.  I am very excited about the upcoming conference in the fall and I am certain you will find opportunities that meet your continuing education plan.  Please be sure to attend the conference while you look for other opportunities that will help you round out your learning experience.

The AIA plays an active role in the continuing education of its members.  We strive to provide valued opportunities for AIA members to maximize their professional skills through effective learning partnerships with firms, continuing education providers, and all AIA components.