March 25, 2014

Black Architect (Prelude)

Architecture for me officially started with the very first day of design studio in fall of 2003. Entering college I remember having a nervous feeling and a sense of apprehension for the unknown that was yet to come. Even writing this blog post brings about emotion and a reminiscent feeling. As the saying goes: "hindsight is always 20/20,". Even with the mishaps and turmoil, my college days were joyous and difficult at the same time. I don't know that I could have chosen differently and made it more joyous and less difficult. Me and my fellow classmates did not party together much, though there were a few nights out. My fondest memories took place in that very studio- late night, drawing: by hand and on CAD, model making, joking around, sleeping, getting reviewed, plotting and just talking to name a few. You take for granted the freedom of design that occurs here. This notion seems more evident the further removed from college you venture. I think this is the chase of many architects extending into their old age. Here is how it began for me:  

I was born and raised in the south Bronx in low income housing. Parkchester had become rampant with drug use and the slumlord in Throggsneck wasn't exactly fair when it came to rent increases on the tiny ground floor apartment my parents rented. For years my parents saved toward a larger home for the four of us. They were blessed in finding a large townhouse in Westchester in the mid 90s.      

Both my parents were New York City public school teachers and continued to do so even after leaving the Bronx. Though I went absurdly left in my career path which they were unfamiliar, they supported me whole-heartedly. I can remember the biggest crutch I put on myself came from not having any type of technical, construction or design background. I did not let it fully deter me though from falling headstrong into a higher education search. My initial college search was a mix of all the tri-state architecture schools (NY, NJ, CT and some in PA ). I did little research but knew I wanted to go to a NAAB accredited school; basically one that had the degree which would allow me the most direct route to licensure. Financial restrictions limited my choosing despite the 6 schools I received acceptance to. Parameters: either close enough to commute to and remain living at home or be affordable enough to allow me to dorm on campus. My acceptance into NYIT-Manhattan with a small academic scholarship seemed to be the most sensible choice at the time while commuting. School is what you make of it. Little did I know but that first semester was going to be the greatest obstacle in my educational career. 

As the the first week of the semester was underway, troubles with the family home had elevated from a leaky roof to a major threat of our safety. I know now that it was a failure to maintain the condo’s connected roofs causing water infiltration and major wood member rotting. (Yes the irony of the knowledge to come). The severity reached the point of ceiling collapse at the upper most floor. Luckily we had vacated the entire floor just prior to this occurring. Probably saving us from serious injury. After all was cleared with the insurance company and condo, we were faced with about 3 months before the home would be restored. Until then this rendered the home unlivable. My entire family relocated for that time into a hotel in Elmsford, NY.

Elmsford is approx. 30 miles from midtown Manhattan where my school campus was located. Without a car, this distance made my commute very difficultI had two options: public transportation or catch a ride into the Bronx with my dad. The breakdown of my two options went something like this: 
Public transportation: Across from the hotel entry was a local bus stop. This was the less than reliable Beeline route 1W bus. From the hotel, I'd ride the bus to 242nd street in the Bronx. From there, I would board the #1 train and ride it all the way to 59th street; arriving on campus. This was sometimes a lengthy 2.5hr+ ordeal one way.

Riding with my dad: This was the better of the two options but had its own downside. To arrive to work by 7am he had to leave at about 5:30am from Elmsford. His school allocated a certain amount of spaces in the rear yard for teachers. They had the choice of arriving at or before 7am or be faced with finding parking on the public streets. A truly agonizing process at times. He would drop me at the B/D train at the Grand Concourse where I would ride to 59th street, a few short stops. This option allowed me to arrive at 7:15-7:30, sometimes earlier. My morning studio class didn’t start until after 9:30am. I usually spent this time studying or finishing other non-design course projects & homework. I would have much rather been home sleep though.

Transferring between trains during my commute was usually an impossible task for one reason- architecture models! The various sized handcrafted models I sculpted at home needed the utmost care in transit. That which the train did not offer sometimes revealing skewed planes once uncovered at the studio. Lucky enough my extra early arrival left time to fix these mishaps.

Yes a truly exhausting commute but I digress. 

Jamie Palazzolo was my first semester design professor. Known to be tough but fair. Unlike some of the other architecture schools, there was quite a bit of diversity within the studio. Not that I would have even flinched toward leaving if there wasn't. I felt a sense of camaraderie within our studio. It was contagious and we all fed off of each other. We all absorbed the art and theory of design & architecture. Human nature assured that there was no lack of competition. Admittedly, I did more things in that semester than I thought humanly possible. A crash course in the model making process, introduction to ink pens on mylar & vellum paper, and learning my own personal way to get the creative juices flowing. I spent countless nights up trying to perfect my designs, to the detriment of my brother whom shared the hotel room. It was the nature of the beast which was aptly called "architecture school".  

The studio started with over 40 students. By the end of the semester many had not only dropped the studio class but left the architecture major completely. We finished the semester with less than 15. Rumors were that this was the weeding out of those that just didn't have the drive, dedication, passion or all of thee above. I felt proud to have passed this first step in my education. The first step of my career. As the semester closed and the chaos calmed my family and I returned to our newly restored home. 

Strangely enough out of all ten design studios I'd go through, I would attain the highest grade in that first studio. I am still somewhat baffled today at this point. In the end: I came and I concurred- graduating with honors among the handful of African Americans in the BArch program. 

During and immediately following college, I was fortunate to have had one professor and two mentors at the firm that I interned whom were African American registered architects. Amazing if you think about it. The statistics were stacked against me heavily but I never let that affect my ultimate goal. That goal being to become a registered architect. I did what was necessary to achieve that. Many a days did I pray for help, guidance and encouragement. Sometimes they came in the strangest forms but in the end drove me forward positively. 

Side story some years later: I was working on a project where I had to constantly communicate with an engineer on a regular basis prior to construction starting. He was part of the contractor's team. We coordinated shop drawings, talked over the design and what my office expected as far as materials and installations. We had became familiar with each other's style of working. The time came where we had to meet onsite to go through a mock installation of the first unit. We had never met in person. We arrived and I was instantly greeted with a face of confusion. He says, "From our talks on the phone.... (pause).. I thought you were... (another pause).. older." I looked him in the eye, smiled and said "Well I am here, so let's get to work." His demeanor that instant and the remainder of the day spoke volumes of his opinion of me. He lost my respect that day but as necessary in business, I maintained my professionalism to get the job done. 

Reiterating my previous point: "So I did what was necessary to achieve my goal." That means not blaming NCARB for loosing my paper IDP experience submissions (yes pre-online logging), not blaming "life happening" as the culprit for sitting back and accepting where I was, not letting a failed exam deter me from finishing and certainly not allowing any person I have to interact with think I am any less of an architect because I am black


[FOOTNOTE 1: Of course there are others that have had it worst and many that have had it easy in comparison. I'm not here to to debate this but just to share my story. Everyone's journey is different. We cannot judge from the outside when inside, everyone is battling something. It is not our place.]

[FOOTNOTE 2: I never really thought about how being an African American in this non-minority dominated field would be. Honestly, it's only as of recently, the last few years, that I see more talk about it and awareness that a change is necessary. I will gladly promote diversity within the field for the future. One of the main reasons for putting this blog together was to showcase diversity, inspire & encourage and promote positivity in the profession.]

[This is a prelude to my previous two post. You can see my struggle to attain my license HERE and my tips for attaining your license HERE.]

March 18, 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Architecture (Part 2)

Construction Documents and Services seemed like the best option for my second exam because my particular work experience gave me a strong advantage with the exam content. Most of the exams cover very practical content and work experience is the ARE candidate’s best friend.

Inversely, studying for the AREs involves learning about the practice of architecture that directly informs work experience. After reading through the B101 or the A201 one night, I’d find myself dipping into that information the next day at the office. Studying for the exams was making me a better, more informed architectural professional, and putting the study material to practical use during the working day reinforced the information I studied at night.

It sounds ridiculous and absurdly geeky, I know, but studying for the CD&S exam was a turning point for me, the point at which I rededicated myself and knew I was fully committed to my architectural career. As I absorbed more about the functioning and principles of architectural practice I grew significantly as a professional and found a great deal of satisfaction in making connections and understanding the logic behind certain practices. Best of all, extrapolating from that logic to situations I encountered at work, I was able to function a lot more independently and with a lot more confidence.

My respect for the intensity and extremely broad knowledge base of the profession was also renewed as I studied for this exam. The expansive exam material highlights the complexity of the architect’s responsibilities, with duties that span several professions: we must, at different stages of the project (and sometime simultaneously), think as designer, engineer, builder, educator, lawyer, accountant, mediator, negotiator, bureaucrat, agent and businessperson. This is in addition to the duty to act as a cultural steward, a medium for bringing coherence to the built environment that was so strongly emphasized in architecture school.

The studying process for CD&S was intense – I read the PPI (Ballast) review manual, but I also relied heavily on primary sources of information, reading the main AIA contracts (A101, A201, B101, etc.) several times as well as relevant chapters of the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice. The AHPP is pretty dry reading, but a wealth of information, both for working practice but also specifically for ARE preparation. I’ve had several questions on my various exams so far that have come directly from AHPP articles.

I took about two months to study for this exam. Again, probably overkill, but my general philosophy is that it’s infinitely preferable to be over-prepared for any situation than to be caught off guard.

Of course, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men and such: on exam day the multiple choice section was very tough and included a lot of questions on topics I hadn’t studied, hadn’t even known I ought to study, as well as several questions which seemed to be subjective.

This type of upset question appears on each and every ARE exam with multiple choice sections. The key is to become good at reasoning through the problem by deduction. The correct answer will be derived from some combination of principles with which you are probably familiar. This synthesis and application of multiple precepts is a totally separate skill set from memorization or even familiarity with architectural knowledge, but it can be learned and mastered with practice.

When I walked out of the CD&S, I was sincerely worried that I had failed the exam. I prepared myself for disappointment, and waited anxiously for two months to get my results (again, pre-blackout). When the Pass letter finally arrived, I was thrilled and relieved beyond belief and, if I’m being honest, there might have been some dancing around the house and celebratory whooping involved as well.

Programming, Planning and Practice and Site Planning and Design were the next two tests on the agenda, and I took them in rapid succession. Both of these exams I took after the blackout and received my pass letters (or emails, more accurately) within one week. Again, although I read the PPI review manual and some Kaplan material, I also relied heavily on primary sources like the AHPP, Edward Allen’s Fundamentals of Building Construction and Frank Ching’s Building Construction Illustrated.

I am now simultaneously studying for my fifth (Structural Systems) and sixth (Building Design & Construction Systems), which I plan to take in tandem in about a month. As the weather starts to turn nice, it will be increasingly difficult to sit inside and study on the weekends, but my goal is to finish the last three exams before the summer solstice, and that requires focus.

Abstemious focus pays off, however. In a few months I will be licensed, and I do think that is a significant achievement.  The process is not just about obtaining a license and the title of Architect. It is a valuable learning process as well (the last thing I ever thought I would say about a standardized test!). Studying has significantly enhanced my architectural knowledge and thus my architectural ambitions.

Architecture, of course, is a discipline that can never truly be mastered: it demands constant education and continuous growth on the part of its practitioners. The license is a career milestone, but it certainly does not signal the end of an architectural education. The life-long learning characteristic of an architectural career is something I look forward to, with the conviction that the more knowledgeable I become, the more I will have to offer the discipline of architecture and the culture of the built environment.


Rae Solomon 

March 11, 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Architecture (Part 1)

My Architects Registration Exam odyssey started about a year ago, in March, 2013. I started taking the exams because, after three and a half years of grad school, and several years of working experience, I was tired of not being able to call myself an architect. I knew enough about the series of seven exams to expect them to be tough but achievable if I invested time and energy into studying and preparation. What completely surprised me was how the process of studying and sitting for the AREs (as of this writing, I am studying for my fifth exam) renewed my passion and enthusiasm for the practice of architecture at a time when they most needed burnishing.

A lot of young architects I know have had a love/hate relationship with the profession, and I cannot excuse myself from that group. This is especially the case for many of us who graduated during the height (or should I say depth?) of the recession and may have experienced some frustration finding work that is stable and engaging in an environment that allows us to grow into our full potential as architects.

When job after job turns out to be just a gig; positions billed as Architectural Internships (with all the IDP-worthy experience implied by those words) turn out to be little more than internships (as in that thing you did one summer during college that involved making a lot of coffee and getting really nimble with Excel); when you find yourself having to apologize at an interview for requiring payment in exchange for your labor, you’d be a chump not to start seriously, bitterly questioning your career choices.

A couple years out of grad school I felt about ready to break up with architecture, but I couldn’t just walk away without feeling like something would be out of equilibrium. A little voice in my head told me not to quit without completing what I had started so many years ago. I had set out to become an architect, invested so many years towards that goal, and, being incapable of leaving a task partially completed, I needed to obtain my license, to become an architect in order to gain clarity on my situation.

There was no pressure from the outside to start taking my exams. My office at the time did not make a point of systematically encouraging its young employees to get licensed (although they certainly didn’t discourage it either and in fact allowed me time off to take the exams – for which I am very grateful). There was just that little voice commanding “Complete! Finish what was started!”

So, I dug in and sorted through the small print detailing the process of applying for initial licensure, the first step towards being cleared to sit for the exams. This was perhaps the most daunting part of the process: the slick design of NCARB’s website breaks down and the user interface loses its coherence in the section laying out the complicated state by state requirements and processes for registering to sit for the exams. After untangling the myriad rules and requirements, I sent my application to the state department of professions and occupations, parted with a significant amount of money, and waited for testing permission to be granted.

In the meantime, I reviewed the material, starting out with NCARB’s ARE exam guides, taking the practice multiple choice questions at the end of the guide to see how comfortable I was with the material covered by each test. By the time my permission to test letter arrived in the mail, I was ready to schedule the first exam.

We’ve all heard the stories about the monstrously horrid NCARB proprietary graphic vignette CAD software. On the advice of a coworker who had just gotten his license, I chose to start with the Schematic Design exam (SD), both for an easy first pass, and in order to get very comfortable working with that proprietary CAD software at the outset of the exam process.

The SD exam consists of two graphic vignettes with no multiple choice questions. You don’t study for this exam so much as practice for it: practice wrestling the software into submission, practice finding solutions to the layout problems, practice focusing exclusively on fulfilling the program requirements and ignoring all aesthetic and good space planning considerations (a peculiar skill necessary for almost all ARE vignettes).

Since it was my first exam and I was nervous, I practiced for about a month and a half, doing the NCARB practice exam and all of the forum alternates dozens of times until I could complete them all in less than half the allotted time. This was complete overkill. Several exams wiser, I now realize I could have passed this exam with no more than a week of practice. Maybe two, if they were busy weeks. However, the extreme over-preparation allowed me to walk into and out of my first exam with a feeling of glowing confidence that could only be undermined by the nagging anxiety that attends nearly two months waiting for exam results (this was pre-blackout, kids).

Immediately after that first exam I ate a good meal. Six hours of testing with no fuel left me feeling weak and light-headed. This seemingly irrelevant detail actually relates to my best and most practical advice to every ARE candidate: bring a sandwich and a bottle of water to the exam and eat during the mandatory 15 minute break between exam sections. You’ll probably have to eat in the hallway because the testing centers generally don’t allow food in the waiting area, and you’ll probably feel pretty silly pacing the corridors sandwich in tow. But alas, the brain runs on glucose and you don’t want your supply of this vital energy running low when you need it most. I made the mistake of waiting until after the exam to re-fuel, and I paid for it with discomfort and less than optimal performance during the last hour and a half of the Building Layout vignette.

Once my blood sugar was back up to normal however, I felt elated and an overwhelming eagerness to tackle the next exam. The whole process suddenly felt a lot more manageable now that I was familiar with it. With patience and persistence I would eventually defeat the ARE Cyclops. By the time I got that first Pass letter, which, while not a surprise was still a relief, I was already deep into studying for my second exam: CD&S.


Rae Solomon

March 7, 2014

Interns- 15 Dos and Don'ts

So I've had a certain idea of what interns should do and how they should act. I kept to this at my first architecture office job where I was an intern for about 3 years while completing my BArch degree. You are there to learn so don't expect to hang out all the time. 

Therefore here it is- a compiled list of dos and don'ts as an intern in an architectural &/or engineering firm. Not all firm structure are the same so some points will not be applicable. 

1. Be respectful to the senior staff. The saying goes "don't bite the hand that feeds you". Well this applies here and I don't mean because they pay you. You are looking for the experience and wisdom which they hold (presumably). Feed off of this and get as much from working together as possible. 

2. Ask questions. Ask questions on topics that you are not familiar with. Be mindful of the time and place though. Do not interrupt or bombard. For example: If you are sitting in on a conference call and a proprietary material system is mentioned. It would be best to write it down and ask about it following the call ending.

3. Take initiative. This is a double edged sword. You should only do this if you are familiar with a task that needs to be done. It can easily back fire if not. This should only be small matter initially so you may show that you are willing to help out and really do work. For example: Don't go trying to send out a set of bid documents without being review by AOR and expect that to be taking initiative. That would be foolish. 

4. Go to lunch and learns. When various product/material reps come in to do Continuing Education seminars, go and sit in. You may learn a thing or two about a new technology. 

5. Go to any construction site or meeting you are allowed to. This is a major point! You want to get out of the office any chance you get. The best architects don't just have good designs but can relate their drawings to the real world application on a construction site. Go see what you've been drawing up!

6. It may take some hard work to gain responsibility. Be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day. It will take time for you to gain the trust and experience that the senior staff expect. It will be little by little. In the end it's their butt on the line if you screw up. Additionally- you will know if being patient turns into being taken advantage of. At which point you should look for work elsewhere. Don't be too quick to make that decision though. 

7. Learn from what task you have already done. If a task is assigned to you. Learn it well so if it is ever given to you again you can say "yes I remember how to do that". 

8. Listen. Listen. Yes listen to those around you. 

9. Take notes if you need to so you get the task done right the first time. Don't "think" you'll remember those instructions. Write it down!

10. Red-lines/markups: check your own work before bringing it to senior staff for review. Important. You may catch stuff you missed. This help you to have a keen eye for detail and get the job done with less revisions and time going over the same items. 

11. Be positive and smile as you go through the day. No one wants to work with a grouch. Leave your personal life/problems outside the office and work happily. 

12. Early on establish IDP record and select a mentor (within US). Gauge how their willingness is to help/approve hours. You want a good relationship with your mentor so logging hours is simple and effortless. 

13. Read. Yes read and learn about the profession. What new things are happening. New changes. This is what you want to do. Learn your craft. 

14. Sketch. Draw when you can. It doesn't have to be architecture. Anything. Keep your mind open and improve your ability to transfer your ideas from mind to paper easily. 

15.Lastly- Don't sweat the mess ups. Everyone has to start somewhere. Don't beat yourself up over it. Learn from it and move on. 

Jared W. Smith, R.A. 

March 3, 2014

Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) - My Approach and what to do

As I mentioned in my first post, I took one exam (CDS) in 2010 and failed due to my lack of understanding of the graphic portion. I officially started my exams in middle of 2011 and completed four exams prior to my son being born in July 2012. I took another two exams prior to my daughter being born this past Oct 2013. I couldn't be more ecstatic to be finished. Here's my process and advice, in general of course. NCARB has its strict privacy policy and I do not plan on divulging anything other than general information on the exam and the process I took to get here.

The Exam & NCARB:
First thing's first, do you have an NCARB record? Recording IDP hours? If not go here: NCARB IDP , read it all, create your account and transfer all the required docs from your college (diploma, etc.). 
What ever state you are in, you will have to apply to be allowed to start testing. Check with yours to find out the rules. They will look at your experience, education and make a determination. It wasn't a big issue for me since NY state allows concurrent AREs and IDP.

While you wait for authorization to test go here: NCARB ARE Info , read all items and download ARE Guidelines and all the seven section guides NCARB ARE Sections. You can also download each section practice program to your computer for later use.
Don't be in a rush to finish IDP. I wasn't in a rush knowing the AREs would encompass a good amount of time and I'd for sure be done by the time I got all 7 done.

Now comes the studying!  

The Exams & the Order:
There are seven (7) exams: PPP, SPD, BDCS, SD, SS, BS, CDS. You can check the NCARB site for their full names. The first basic question almost everyone asks is which do you start with? This is a very personal question. It all depends on your work experience and your strengths & weaknesses. There is a known grouping of exams that overlap topics. They are 1. CDS, PPP & SPD and 2. SS, BS & BDCS. These exams should be tested close together since all the info will be fresh in your head and help to pass the whole set. SD is set aside and known to be the easiest exam. I choose to take this order: CDS, PPP, BDCS, SD, SS, BS & SPD. I know I deviated from my own advice but after taking them all I see why each set is overlapped. In my opinion, the most difficult exams are SS & BDCS. It is mainly due to the vast amount of info necessary to go through and the broad range that can be on exam. SS has a reputation for being un-passable but it really is not. I took the SS Thaddeus online course and it helped immensely. I'd recommend this over anything else. He dispels the myths about the exam and he is dead on. I know they have the in-person 3 day seminar but with the online version you get more info and have 45 days to use it all at your own pace. There really is not that much math. It's all about the theory behind it all.
At the end of each section guide there are reference books that help with studying. They usually list at least 10 or more. Some I had from my college days but others I did not. I did not go crazy buying them all. I purchased some which were more general and larger in covering the scope of the exam. In addition to these reference books, there are the two big study guides that are most popular: PPI/Ballast Guides & Kaplan Guides. I used both. The PPI/Ballast ARE review Manual is the older 2009-2010 version but is still fine to use. The Kaplan, also the older version, is the more expensive of the two but usually worth it for each of the sections. There are a ton of other guides but be weary as some aren't as good or missing vital info. Using both really enforced the info since they approach it differently but the outcome was the same.        

My Process:         
The best way to go about the exams in my opinion is to set a routine and follow it very closely. The best is to try and study everyday. Yes everyday. I stuck to my routine religiously. Every night after my wife and kids were sleep I studied. At least an hour, sometimes less sometimes more. I am a night person as most architecture students become following college. So this worked for me. It makes for very little sleep with a baby that wakes up throughout the night though! What every time frame works for you, run with it. 

Another good thing is to get all your study info and make a folder in your digital cloud (Dropbox, Google +, Google Drive, etc.). Load all your stuff into it so you have access to it on your computer, laptop, tablet, phone, work computer, etc. On free time, you can review some things. I utilized Dropbox and loved having the access. Practice exams and graphic portions were always more structured at home in quiet to emulate the exam itself. 

Vignettes/Graphics Portions:
One word: Practice! The NCARB has a weird program for the exam and you must learn it and know it well. Practice practice and practice. It is crucial to get good with that program. Vignettes become a breeze. You will only have to focus on the problem rather than "how to get the program to do" something. Speed is your friend since it has some really odd functions. Be familiar with "zoom" and "erase" especially. I would review each practice problem at least 5 times. BDCS is a tough one since you have 85 multiple choice and three, yes THREE, vignettes to complete. Timing is everything. 

Book Resources: 
The PPI books are decent. Kind of dense to read. I liked the Kaplan books better though. They break each exam in chapters. Each chapter has a quiz on that info. Keep you in touch with what you have read. Plus the Kaplan is a little easier to read and comprehend. I usually took 3 months of study time except Structures which I took a good 6 months. 3 months is plenty for all the others. More than that and you forget stuff. Also I made a habit of studying through all the guides multiple times so it stuck in my head. Using Kaplan and PPI, I read through them 2-3 times each or more. This way I force the info to my knowledge not just memory. Some people are able to take them in shorter time spans. I was not able. I had two children in the 2.5 years it took me to finish exams. I have extensive responsibilities at my firm, so this worked for me. 
The most important part to all this is after you've familiarized your self with the study material after a month or so, schedule your exam. This as I like to say "makes it real". You then have a reason for all the studying and you focus IN. The last 2 weeks is crunch time and I usually study 2-3hrs a day and leave the day before exam as a cool down review time (no hard studying).
Online resources: 
(This site has been taken down by NCARB because some people were giving out exam info that broke confidentiality rules. It may go back up but nobody knows when.) 

 (alternate forum for discussion on AREs. Good for posting practice vignettes and asking for review by others. Take others advice with a grain of salt. Not everyone knows what they are talking about.) 
(this thread has links to study info from the now closed AREforum)

Good general info here: 
(He's dead on, on a lot of the aspects of taking exams. And in order to pass, you have to show up.)
These links are private people who took exams and made the best study help documents and many people refer to these as the best free guides around. Look at these before you buy anything other than the PPI & Kaplan guides:

LEED. I'll keep my story short (if I can): I took and passed my LEED when it was "hot and IN" back in 2008 prior to attempting any exams. I wanted to use that as a buffer to preparing to start AREs. I am extremely glad I went that route. I will explain in a second. My test was completely different than it is now. When I went for it, there was one exam not two like there is now. I am considered LEED Legacy AP (or something like that) since I came in prior to the separation between GA and LEED Fellow. I wouldn't advise anyone to go for it now unless you currently work on LEED projects and it is after getting license. I worked on a LEED project at my old office (prior to passing exams). I loved doing it but I was an intern and wasn't given as much responsibility as I wanted. My current office does do some green design with new technologies but no LEED projects thus far. 

With that being said, if you are not LEED- it would not be a bad idea to get the (older/used) LEED study guide(s) for reference. Or check their websites: USGBC & GBCI. Nearly all the exams touch on Green Design/Sustainability. Having my LEED was invaluable for that reason. I already went through so much sustainability studying so a lot of the techniques and products, I was/am familiar with.

I recommend to any one doing their exams or about to: Upon completion of IDP, transfer your whole record (work & school experience) to your state prior to completing your exams. This makes the process after completing your last exam that much easier and quicker. I took my last exam on 2-15-14. Received my pass on 2-22-14. Received my license number on 2-26-14. And lastly received an official hard copy of my license and registration certificates on 3-1-14. All in 2 weeks exactly. This was the best route to take by far. I will add that this is NY state and other states will vary. Just keep in mind your record must be finalized and reviewed by NCARB before considered "complete". Additionally, this same record has to be reviewed by your state to ensure everything meets their requirements. This all will take time. Get it out of the way early on. I doubt that it's just me but after the final exam, all I wanted was my official certificates finalizing my completion!  

I hope that helps! I did not just write this for you but so I can refer those attempting the exams here. Under 4.0, you need to start now! The new ARE 5.0 will be transitioning in fall 2016. You want to be done by 2016 so you aren't forced to repeat sections with the new 5.0. Complete 4.0 now!! If you have any other questions or issues you've encountered, comment below and I'll respond back. Thanks for reading.

Jared W. Smith R.A.

Interesting link to another two blog posts about the AREs - ARE 
Shoegnome - ARE