Toward a Framework for Integrating LEED Credentialing into an Interior Design Curriculum

Presented by: Stephanie Sickler, Amanda Gale, Charles Ford

Problem Recent trends in industry and accreditation standards in education have illuminated the increasing importance of a rich understanding of sustainable design practices among practitioners, educators, and students alike. Formally and informally IDEC, Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), and the Council for Interior Design Qualifications (CIDQ) have all begun to reflect a heightened importance for sustainability education through their organizations (Stieg, 2006). The 2014 professional standards of the Council for Interior Design Accreditation CIDA addressed specific sustainable outcomes for student and program expectations in standards 2a, 2d, and 14a (CIDA, 2014). The proposed modifications to the new CIDA standards have an increased focus on integrated design and sustainability. It is clear that nationally practitioners view sustainable design and integrated design as valuable to the practice of interior design as these are areas that are consistently ranked as two of the top ten biggest concerns of the industry (DesignIntelligence, 2014). Furthermore, DesignIntelligience ranks collegiate programs based on education of sustainable design practice and principles. The ranking is a result of a survey of national firms. According to a survey of deans more emphasis on sustainable design is one of the top contributors to changes in the curriculum within the last five years (DesignIntelliegence, 2014). It is evident, therefore, that sustainability is of ever-increasing importance to our profession. However, there is no set, official, discriminator against which to test the efficacy of sustainability education and awareness in interior design programs. The most comprehensive tool for assessing one’s knowledge of both general and comprehensive sustainable design practice is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental design (LEED) Green Associate Exam. This framework posits that by integrating the preparation for, and requiring the completion of, the LEED Green Associate Exam into the curriculum, interior design programs can appropriately prepare students for the emerging demands of the profession. The LEED Green Associate Exam credentials will not only serve as a worthy discriminator for learning, but will also enhance students’ resumes and will become a stepping stone to further sustainable education beyond their formal classroom training. Currently, this is also the only credential that does not require prior experience, which makes it accessible to students. Yet the challenge remains of how to integrate this material into an already bulging set of interior design curriculum parameters. Strategy To address this need, a course was developed, which delivered in-depth content on sustainable design, while acting simultaneously as a preparatory course for the LEED Green Associate Exam. At the conclusion of the semester, students sat for this exam, earning the credential of LEED Green Associate. This model was tested over five years and proved to be a success each iteration with increased enrollment and over 100 students earning the credential with 91% pass rate for the LEED Green Associate exam. Outcomes Many programs are faced with integrating sustainability content in a variety of courses throughout the curriculum and may not fit this semester-long model. Therefore, a framework has been created to address the needs of a variety of programs. The attached table depicts a proposed framework for integrating LEED credentialing into a variety of interior design curriculums. It is expected that by following this framework, programs can produce a number of graduates who are prepared to begin work on sustainably designed spaces, and who may continue to further their design education and LEED credentialing immediately upon matriculation into practice.


  • Council for Interior Design Accreditation. (2014). Professional standards 2014. Retrieved September 9, 2014, from
  • DesignIntelligence (2014). America’s best architecture and design schools 2015. DesignIntelligence Magazine, 20(6), 17-90.
  • Stieg, C. (2006). The sustainability gap. Journal of Interior Design, 32(1), vii–xxi. doi:10.1111/j.19