GreenStep LEED Online Project Experience

Prepare for a successful career in green building, and prepare to pass the LEED exam, by working on a LEED project with an industry leader.

Alex Spilger, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Cassidy & Turley and founder of GreenStep Education, guides you along the way as you gain the skills and understanding to not only pass the LEED exam, but also build a strong foundation for a successful career in the green building industry. 

Program Description

Award winnerOur students rest assured knowing that GreenStep and Poplar pioneered the concept of online live LEED Professional Project Experience, allowing professionals to work on a LEED project from anywhere, who would not otherwise have access. We are extremely proud that since 2009, over 1,300 industry professionals from over 40 countries have successfully participated on our online LEED projects. 

As an active partner and supporter of many local U.S. Green Building Council chapters, Poplar and GreenStep have received an overwhelmingly positive experience for our participants. Indeed, many of our participants have successfully passed the LEED AP exam, started their own LEED consulting practices and moved on to manage dozens of new LEED projects.

Recognizing that it can be challenging for professionals from different time zones to schedule around our San Francisco based project meetings, we developed the online virtual LEED Professional Project Experience Program specifically to allow participants to experience the same level of instructional quality and engagement, while doing so on their own schedules.


LEED Program Structure

Contributing to a LEED project can take many different forms depending on your role on the team. From our experience managing over 100 LEED projects, the most critical skill on a LEED project (and for passing the LEED AP exam) is being able to perform LEED credit calculations, particularly for some of the more challenging LEED credits.

With this in mind, our program focuses heavily on documenting challenging LEED credits while providing the guidance and support needed to ensure that you understand the concepts and processes involved. This credit-based approach translates well to a virtual platform since it does not require participants to engage with the rest of the team on a regular basis.

LEED 2009 and LEEDv4

USGBC has committed to continually updating the LEED Rating Systems every few years to adopt to new technologies, streamline the Certification process and increase the level of standards that projects must meet for each Certification level. The latest update to the LEED Rating Systems is LEED version 4 which launched in November 2013 and includes significant changes from LEED v2009.

While LEED v4 is officially up and running, LEED v2009 still remains current, relevant and widely popular. Projects will be able to continue to register under LEED v2009 through mid-2016 which means that LEED v2009 will likely remain relevant through 2017 and beyond for projects with longer schedules.

Most of the clients we are working with have opted to register their projects under LEED v2009, rather than LEED v4, since it is the more established Rating System and since the industry has not yet fully adapted to meet specific LEED v4 criteria for certain Credits. We expect to continue to use LEED v2009 projects for our LEED Professional Project Experience Program until we see a more widespread adoption of the new LEED v4 system. As part of our program, we will compare and contrast LEED v2009 with LEED v4 so that project participants have a working knowledge of both systems moving.

Project Assignments

As part of our project team, you will be tasked with completing several credit calculations for the project, which we simply refer to as “Project Assignments”. The Project Assignments that you’ll be given will include several components to help explain the work that needs to be accomplished and guide you through the process.

Each Project Assignment consists of the following:

  • Introduction Video & Explanation (start here for each assignment)
  • Written Project Assignment including relevant project information
  • Copies of LEED Reference Guide Pages (if required)
  • LEED Credit Template / Form (only provided if applicable)
  • Additional resources such as energy model results where applicable

Project Assignments are meant to be challenging, but very doable regardless of your experience level and background. Most of the Project Assignments will require you to use the Reference Guide to find important information needed to complete the work such as: baseline standards, definitions of key terms, credit percentage thresholds, calculation methodology, equations and variables. Carefully reviewing the Reference Guide pages we provide can be invaluable for preparing for the exam since many of the test questions are derived from the credits we’ll be working on as part of the project (this is intentional on our part).

With the resources we provide, including the accompanying videos, our goal is give you the background information and tools necessary for you to complete the credit calculation. We want to provide enough information without actually completing the work for you. In this program you'll be working on solving challenging problems that you could face on any project utilizing BD+C, ID+C, O+M or ND. We examine the following credits:

  1. Indoor Water Efficiency: Americans use about 70% of their water inside their homes. The American Water Works Research Foundation performed a 1999 study in which they found that Americans use 26.7% of indoor water for toilets, 21.7% in clotheswashers, 16.8% in the shower, and 15.7% from faucets. Nearly 14% is attributed to leaks and 5.3% from other sources. LEED encourages using water efficient appliances as well as replacing potable water use with recycled graywater or rainwater. 
  2. Water Efficient Landscaping: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), outdoor water use makes up one-third of residential water use, or approximately 9 billion gallons of water per day. About 50% of this water is wasted because of inefficient watering methods and irrigation systems. In a commercial setting, a building can use up to one third of its drinking (potable) water for irrigation. LEED rewards projects that reduce potable water use for irrigation through conservation or by using non-potable water. 
  3. Energy Modeling, Renewable Energy and Green Power: The energy modeling process is critical to any LEED BD+C project and is worth more LEED points than any other credit. LEED looks at the reduction in energy cost, not just energy usage, and encourages projects to use advanced modeling guidelines outlined in ASHRAE Appendix G. Green power refers to purchasing renewable energy from a third party, not through on-site renewable sources. Projects that do not want to install on-site renewable energy can buy green power which can offset some or all of the carbon emissions generated by a building. In LEED 2009, LEED awards two (2) points for projects that engage in at least a 2 year contract with a green power provider. The contract must meet at least 35% of the building's energy needs, either determined by the annual electricity consumption determined by a whole building energy simulation, or the U.S. Department of Energy's Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). LEED encourages projects to purchase renewable energy generated by a reputable company or organization. 
  4. Lighting Power Reduction: Lighting power density is the Watts of lighting per square foot (psf) of room floor area (W/sf). By reducing lighting power density through better lighting design and more efficient fixtures, a project can save a great deal of energy. Lighting makes up 12% of electricity consumption in the U.S., making it an important component of energy efficient building. LEED aims to control energy use for lighting by requiring reduced lighting density.
  5. Recycled Content: Items or products made with recycled content contain materials that have been recovered. Materials with recycled content are more sustainable because they prevent used materials from going to a landfill, giving them an extended purpose or second life. This reduces the demand for virgin materials and decreases the material's embodied energy, since materials with recycled content typically require less manufacturing power than producing a new identical product. LEED rewards green building projects that use materials with recycled content.
  6. Daylighting: Daylighting, or natural lighting provided by the sun, and views of the outdoors are important components of green building because they contribute to improved indoor environmental quality. Indoor areas with natural light are shown to improve occupant health and productivity. LEED rewards projects with spaces that have these characteristics. 

LEED Exam Preparation Included

Industry Leading LEED Exam Preparation - So You're Ready on Exam Day

GreenStep is not only the leader in online LEED project experience, we've perfected LEED exam preparation through careful and diligent personal experience. The LEED Professional Project Experience Program on Poplar Network includes a full exam preparation package. Choose from:

  • LEED Green Associate

GreenStep's exam study packs include a workbook, realistic exam simulators and PDF downloads of additional practice exam questions. The material was designed using the approach that quality is much more important than quantity, especially when it comes to preparing for the LEED exams.

GreenStep's practice tests were created using the approach that quality is much more important than quantity, especially when it comes to preparing for the LEED exam. In the development of our practice questions and study guide for the LEED AP Building Design + Construction exam, our team has:

  • Scoured every possible resource from which potential exam questions are developed
  • Taken & passed various versions of the LEED exam over a dozen times
  • Incorporated valuable feedback from over 10,000 professional participants through 300 LEED exam training workshops

The result is a study package that accurately reflect the types of questions you’ll face on the LEED AP Building Design + Construction (ID+C) exam, while providing confidence for the student and a true measurement of how you will score on the real thing.

About the Instructor and Project Leader

Alex Spilger, LEED APAlex Spilger is Principal and Founder of GreenStep Education and also leads the west coast sustainability practice as a Senior Vice President at Cassidy & Turley, a global commercial real estate services team, where he works with diverse clients such as 23 & Me, Skype, Google, Salesforce.com and GoPro.

Throughout this program, Alex guides you along the way as you prepare and gain the skills and understanding to not only pass the LEED exam, but also to build upon a foundation for a successful career in the green building industry. 

Alex has worked on over 100 diverse LEED projects, including the first LEED v4 project in San Francisco. In addition to his project experience, Alex is a world renowned LEED exam trainer, having taken and passed various versions of the LEED exams approximately 19 times and delivered over 300 LEED training workshops through organizations such as local chapters of USGBC, American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Sustainable Building Advisors Program and the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, among others. 

Alex is an active member of the Northern California Chapter of USGBC and serves on the USGBC Corresponding Committee for LEED EBOM. He is also a founding member of GreenLaces.org, a non-profit committed to leveraging the visibility and influence of athletics to create positive change for the planet. Alex is a LEED AP with specialties in BD+C, ID+C and EBOM. He is a USGBC NCC faculty member, a Certified Green Building Professional, an AIA Continuing Education Provider and HERS Rater. He holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from UCLA.


Note: Due to the confidential nature of many of our projects and clients, we may not be able to provide certain project information. However, please know that this will not take away from the experience and the value you will gain through the work that you will be completing.

Instant access. Unlimited use for 120 days. Use from any computer, or mobile device (iPad, iPhone, etc.)