Jenelle Isaacson is beginning to get serious about the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional exam. She's hired an assistant who'll lighten her busy workload just enough to steal time for studying. She's joined the U.S. Green Building Council. And she's gotten hands-on training.
Friends Erin Barnes and Adam Rainey are fresh off a green remodel of their 1960s modern North Portland home, and Isaacson's been involved in the process from the beginning. The very beginning - she sold them the house. The real estate broker with Hasson Co. Realtors is one of a growing number of not-architects and not-engineers that is starting to see the value of earning LEED accreditation. "You can say you're green, but this is what shows," she said. "I think there will be a need for this - someone who understands the market, and someone who knows what the green lingo means. " As the green building industry grows, professionals outside architecture, engineering and construction are looking at learning LEED as a benefit to their clients - and their careers. "All of a sudden," said green building marketing consultant Jerry Yudelson, "I see this is part of a career for people who are in finance, insurance, and real estate, as well as design and construction. " Interest has translated to a quick rise in the number of LEED-accredited professionals, or APs. At the end of 2006, there were about 35,000 nationally - 10,000 more than in 2005. As of Nov. 30, there were 992 LEED APs registered in Oregon; 767 of them worked in Portland. One of the 767 is Jon Carder, the president of Melvin Mark Brokerage Co., who earned his LEED AP designation in November. The Melvin Mark Cos. has been incorporating sustainability into its own practices for almost a decade, Carder said, and clients are coming along as well. "More and more of the clients we work with are interested in leasing spaces in green buildings, because green buildings are high-performance buildings," he said. As clients - both developers and space-seekers - demand green, Carder said, he thinks more brokers will see the need to become LEED APs. "If we're going to be effective on either side," he said, "I think it's essential to understand LEED, and take the course, and learn what it means to be a green building. " But some aren't sure that the accreditation fits their business. Suzanne Goddyn, broker at Windermere Cornin & Caplan Realty Group, sees sustainability as an integral part of real estate - but she's not so sure if becoming a LEED AP would benefit her clients. "Realtors have to be very careful that we don't claim to be experts in any given area," she said. "For now, the EcoBroker designation seems most useful. " Goddyn and her business partner, Rene Susak, are both registered EcoBrokers. Earning the EcoBroker designation means learning the basics of green as well as how to tap the resources that clients need. A smart move, Goddyn said, when client demand for green knowledge is growing. "It's a good business financial decision," she said. "It's not just this tree-hugging decision. " Financial reasons may be a contributing factor in the decision to take - or not to take - the LEED AP exam. Cost is $350 for non-USGBC members and $250 for members, which means getting certified requires a definite investment. But professionals are seeing the value. Jon Norling, an energy attorney in Lane Powell's Portland office, earned the office's first certification in December. Having a LEED AP on staff, he said, was consistent with the firm's existing client base - and where its clients are headed. "Our firm has a big practice in real estate, and it represents a lot of developers," he said. "... I think if you're going to have a credible sustainability practice with a real estate component, it's critical to have someone on staff who has a familiarity with LEED. " Added value in other professions, Yudelson said, should mean at least a 15 percent jump in the national number of LEED APs in 2007. That prediction, he said, may be conservative if interest from other fields grows. "People want to have some first-hand experience, even if they never use it in a project," he said. "They want to know what the design team is talking about. " Even within the traditional building professions, becoming a LEED AP is starting to appeal to those outside of the design staff. Deborah Rogers, marketing manager at Hennebery Eddy Architects, said her interest in LEED AP -she was accredited in November - was piqued by the Portland firm's existing dedication to sustainability. "It's ingrained in the way the company operates," she said. "It wasn't a huge leap for me to want to understand the process more. " Becoming a LEED AP, she said, fits within how well she does her job, too. "Fundamentally," she said, "it's understanding the concepts so I can work internally with our staff, externally with our subcontractors and benefit the projects and out clients. " Isaacson, the Hasson real estate broker, will start studying in February. Home buyers Barnes, a green interior designer, and Rainey, a project engineer at Turner Construction, are thinking about taking the test too, which would offer study support of sorts. More and more, Isaacson said, she expects people like herself to start learning. "You can't turn anywhere without seeing green, but it seems like real estate industry-wide has been slow to catch up. ... It's time for us to make Realtors a part of that change," she said.
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