Starting Jan. 1, 2009, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will no longer oversee the actual certification of buildings applying for LEED status. That process will be taken over by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), an autonomous organization that already manages the certification of the LEED professional accreditation program.

"The conversation [about the shift] has been taking place over the course of the past year," says Peter Templeton, senior vice president of the USGBC. The organization began talking about such a shift as it considered "how we can scale the program to meet demand"?currently, more than 13,000 commercial projects await certification?"and looking at what we can do to ensure that there will always be quality and integrity in the building certification process," explains Templeton.

"Third-party certification is what we're looking at," says Beth Holst, vice president of credentialing at the GBCI, "something we can audit." GBCI will contract out the actual certifying process to certification bodies, which will ascertain a building's compliance with LEED standards and determine the level of certification. GBCI will then be able to audit the information independently. "It's creating the solution that will help us meet the capacity and the demand [for the program]," says Holst.

It will also substantially increase the size of GBCI's staff, which currently stands at five but will fold in the USGBC's current certification department, about 25 people strong. But all of these transitions concern back-of-house operations; little will change for those seeking LEED certification. Applications will still be submitted to the USGBC, and that organization is not stepping back from creating and refining the requirements for the LEED building programs. "USGBC's role as a standards-developing organization for the LEED system remains unchanged," says Templeton.

LEED-certified buildings: 1,705

Number of commercial projects awaiting certification: 13,741

Source: USGBC; data current as of Aug. 20, 2008