The 21st century’s focus on environmental design, sustainability, and green living has fostered interest in the emerging field of green architecture and sustainable design. There are several paths you can take to become a green architect, depending on the time and resources you can afford to devote to that goal. You can obtain a bachelor’s degree in environmental architecture; you can obtain a graduate degree in environmental architecture; or, if you are already an established architect, you can become a certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) professional. All three of these methods alone, or a combination thereof, will help you become a green architect.
If you are seeking a degree in architecture, you might want to research programs that offer a special focus on environmental architecture. For example, Yale University offers a joint Master of Architecture and Master of Environmental Management program that is specifically designed to help you become a green architect. Some bachelor’s degree programs combine those specialties: the Massachusetts College of Art and Design offers a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental design and architecture, and North Carolina State University, St. John’s International University in Italy, and many others offer bachelor degrees in environmental architecture or design. Contact your local college or university’s architecture program and ask if they offer a combination degree for architecture and environmental studies. If they don’t offer a degree that specifically meets your needs, you may be able to work with them to design your own curriculum through a combination of your major in architecture and a minor, certifications, and electoral coursework in environmental management and design.
Be aware that some colleges and universities offer four-year pre-professional environmental architecture degrees that will help you become a green architect, but to qualify for the Architecture Registration Examination, you must have completed a five-year bachelor’s program or master’s program. If your degree is a pre-professional program, you may need to take an additional year of architectural courses to ensure you qualify for the exam. Instead of taking that extra year of coursework, you can also earn your master’s degree after your pre-professional degree, as that will also help you qualify for the exam.
An established professional who wants to become a green architect should consider becoming certified with the LEED program. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) took over management of the LEED credentialing program from the US Green Building Council in 2009, and many professionals strive to add LEED certification to their credentials. GBCI uses LEED as a measurement tool and rating system to assess green buildings in the United States and Canada.
LEED certification requires you to take an exam that tests your knowledge of the LEED rating system and of environmental building issues. There are three levels of certification – LEED Green Associate, LEED AP, and LEED Fellow – and to qualify for each stage of certification, you must fulfill different requirements. Consult the GBCI’s website for details on those requirements.