The Secret to Increasing Participation for An AIA CE Course By 30%

Posted On: 
Dec 4, 2017
The Secret to Increasing Participation for An AIA CE Course By 30%

Why is your competitor’s online education course outperforming your course by thirty percent or more? Why is your competition getting specified on more projects than you? AIA continuing education is an excellent tool to reach architects, specifiers, interior designers, engineers, and contractors. Unfortunately, most building product manufacturers are neglecting one of the most effective lead generation methods available in the industry.

There are several large education platform providers in the industry like Ron Blank and Associates. Regardless of platform, most online continuing education courses will generate roughly eighty to one hundred contact leads per month. However, there is a little known strategy that can boost course participation by thirty to forty percent per month. Most manufacturers register their course with the AIA for CE credit. Some manufacturers also register their course with the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) for LEED professionals. However, what course credit designation you choose for the GBCI will determine whether you have one hundred or one hundred and fifty participants take your online course.

LEED Online Education

There are over 200,000 LEED professionals. Credentials are maintained in two-year cycles starting when the credential is earned based on exam or enrollment date. LEED Green Associates must earn 15 continuing education hours to maintain their credential. At least 3 hours must be LEED-specific hours. LEED AP’s must earn 30 continuing education hours to maintain their credential. At least 6 hours must be LEED-specific hours related to their LEED specialty. 99% of product manufacturers register their course with the GBCI for general hour education, not LEED specific hours. This is a huge mistake and costs manufacturers 30-40% in participation rates.

GBCI General Hour

Per the GBCI CMP Guide, General CE hours are defined as activities that are relevant to general green building concepts such as environmental sustainability or human health and wellness, but not specific to any rating system or standard. All GBCI credential holders (LEED APs and LEED GAs) must earn all general CE hours to maintain their credential, and any activity that counts as general CE hours for one credential may count for other GBCI credentials. The GBCI General Hour can be compared in a big picture way to the AIA HSW hour for AIA members.

LEED Specific Hour

One of the most sought out CE courses is the LEED Specific Hour. LEED Green Associates and LEED APs must obtain them to maintain their credential. Currently, 99.9% of LEED specific hours are premium content on education platforms. LEED APs can pay USGBC $200 to purchase a membership to take them. Or LEED APs can pay $50 a credit hour on several different websites. Free LEED Specific Hours are rarer than a unicorn sliding down a rainbow or the Dallas Cowboys winning the Super Bowl.

A LEED-specific course is defined as an activity that has an explicit connection to LEED credit categories, credits and/or prerequisites found in any of the current LEED rating systems. For LEED APs, LEED-specific CE hours must relate directly to their specialty. Currently, there is only one website in North America offering free LEED specific content sponsored by building product manufacturers.

Our team conducted a four year study on the participation rates of AIA courses with the GBCI general hour credit versus the LEED specific hour credit. Manufacturers who created and sponsored a free LEED specific hour course on average saw a 30%-40% uptick in course participation on a monthly basis. In some instances, especially in November and December, the course saw a 50% increase in participation. These courses reward more CE hours than any other type of CE course in the AEC industry.

To help illustrate the difference between a general hour credit course and a LEED specific hour credit course, we can provide a lighting example. A GBCI general hour course focused on lighting would discuss installation of daylight responsive lighting. A LEED specific hour course would explain installation of daylight responsive lighting controls in all regularly occupied spaces within 15 feet of windows and under skylights to meet EAc1.2 credit in LEED for Interior Design and Construction: Commercial Interiors.

The Secret to Increasing Participation for An AIA CE Course By 30%

The Big Mystery

Why aren’t all building product manufacturers offering LEED specific hour courses? There are several reasons why a manufacturer might not offer LEED specific hours. First, manufacturers are very busy and developing even an AIA course can be a major endeavor. Product reps are busy calling on architects, contractors, putting out fires, etc. Furthermore, many companies have few or even no LEED accredited professionals on staff and are probably not aware of LEED education requirements and opportunities. Finally, LEED education is still somewhat new to the industry having only been mandatory for LEED professionals for a few years.

There are several opportunities for building product manufacturers who partner with a USGBC Education Partner to develop LEED specific hour education. Experienced LEED professionals can take a manufacturer’s content and transform it into a LEED specific hour course. If your product is routinely specified on LEED projects, there is no reason not to offer LEED specific hour education. Here are a few topics that could provide content for your LEED specific hour course-

LEED Credits

Exploring the LEED credits your building product contributes to is the easiest way to build out a LEED specific hour course. The Materials and Resources category is a great place to start. If you manufacture a plumbing product, then the Water Efficiency credit is a no-brainer. The Indoor Environmental Quality is also another LEED credit category that benefits several products.

Health Product Declaration

The Health Product Declaration (HPD) provides a standardized way of reporting material contents of building products and the health effects associated with these materials. If your company has published an HPD about your product, this information can be integrated into a LEED specific hour course. HPDs contribute points in LEED v4 and architects need to know HPD information for specification.

LEED Case Study

One of the most effective strategies to create a LEED specific hour course is by conducting a LEED case study. The LEED case study can be based on an in-depth investigation of a building project. If your product was specified and widely used on a LEED Platinum Net Zero project, this would provide an excellent framework to build out a course. LEED case studies with the LEED specific hour designation are the highest performing CE courses in the industry.

The Copper Development Association (CDA) launched a LEED specific hour course in 2012. Fast forward to 2017 and the five-year old course is still averaging 250+ leads per month! The LEED specific course documents the design challenges for the Health Sciences Education Building in Arizona. The $135 million dollar LEED project provided ample content for not only one course but two LEED specific hour courses.

Exceptions to The Rule

Not every AIA CE course is destined to be a LEED specific hour course. If a building product manufacturer is rarely or never specified on LEED projects, then creating such a course would be a waste of resources. In addition, a LEED specific hour course generates a significant amount of monthly leads. Product manufacturers who do not have the infrastructure in place to follow up the leads should be wary of creating more specification opportunities for themselves. However, most product manufacturers given the chance, would jump at increasing their monthly participation rates and leads by 30-40%. Now you know the secret to increasing participation for your CE course.

Why doesn’t your company offer LEED specific hour education? What are the obstacles preventing you from developing a LEED specific hour course?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank