As published in Scotsman Guide's Commercial Edition, March 2010.
The economy's slow rebound offers a prime time for commercial mortgage brokers to prepare for an emerging marketplace. Sustainable developments and building rehabilitations are changing the way property-owners and -buyers view projects, and green practices can have tremendous long-term benefits for developers, owners and tenants alike. These benefits may include significant savings on utility bills, healthier indoor environments and more-durable buildings.
Traditionally, conservative lending institutions that recognize the financial value of sustainable practices have been rare, but the evidence of enduring value -- to building-owners and in the marketplace -- will advance this valuation process. Forward-thinking mortgage brokers, lenders and other industry professionals have a great opportunity to learn about these practices and their value and can clearly demonstrate their knowledge through professional accreditation.
In fact, a new credential was recently created for professionals who want to demonstrate foundational knowledge in green building, even if their profession is not directly related. Mortgage brokers, as well as other related industry professionals, can apply to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associates.
The U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC's) LEED program, founded in 1993, has become the national standard for green-building design, construction and operations. At press time, there are more than 4,000 LEED-certified buildings and 35,000 registered with certification pending in the U.S. and abroad, according to USGBC data.
The USGBC has updated the LEED-rating system since its inception, expanding beyond new construction to offer certification tailored to existing buildings' operations and maintenance, core and shell, and school, health-care and retail facilities. The most recent update in 2009 brought changes directed at increasing capacity for the organization, improving the speed of certification, and focusing on building performance with considerable regard to climate change and energy.
One significant shift that helped accomplish these goals was the creation of the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) in January 2008. It's responsible for project review and certification, as well as the LEED professional-credential program.
Until recently, the LEED-accredited-professional designation was the only professional mark to recognize excellence in green-building performance and practice based on the LEED-rating system's guidelines. The GBCI tiered the credentialing process into three layers to better denote qualifications.
As a result, it created a new designation for professionals who support but do not directly apply LEED in their profession and want to demonstrate foundational knowledge in green building and LEED. Termed LEED Green Associate, this credential can stand on its own or can serve as the first step in becoming a LEED-accredited professional with a specialty.
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