Accreditation: Adding Value, Trust, and Transparency to Certification and Verification for the Built Environment

When you buy a product, you can look for a certification mark that tells you it has been tested and will be safe to use.

When you hire an employee, you can ask for her credentials, which tell you what particular skills she has.

But how do you know that the certification is accurate? That the credential is good? Who is watching the watchers?

The answer lies in accreditation–an independent, third-party demonstration of quality assurance. In short, it is the highest level of competence assessment available in the marketplace today.

Accreditation plays a critical role in design and construction, environmental protection, and sustainable development. And while accreditation can be hard to wrap your head around, here’s an example that can help. There are many layers to quality assurance, like an onion. And as you go outward, each layer adds another dimension of confidence and credibility.

Let’s start with an individual product, like a light bulb, or a desk chair. At the center is the product itself. Next is the manufacturer. Next is the certification body or lab. They test the product and verify its safety. Last is the accreditation body. They don’t inspect the product or the manufacturer. Instead, they make sure the certification body conforms to international standards.

Why does this matter for the built environment? From equipment used in construction to products being installed on a jobsite, accredited product certification can help you have confidence in the quality and safety of the products themselves–from ladders and light bulbs right down to the kitchen sink.

Safe, resilient, and sustainable construction requires built-environment professionals that are adequately trained and certified by accredited institutions. Our onion example works just the same way for personnel–like crane operators, elevator repair specialists, and more. At the center is the individual.

Next is their credential, whether it’s a degree, certification, certificate, or a license. Next is the credential issuer. They test the individual and verify their knowledge. Last is the accreditation body. They don’t test or evaluate the individual. Instead, they make sure that the credential issuer conforms to international standards.

There are a number of groups in the U.S. and internationally that offer accreditation services. If you are a contractor, developer, or building owner, why should you look for certification bodies that have been accredited by ANSI (American National Standards Institute)?

Simply put, ANSI accreditation is the broadest assurance of quality available in the marketplace.

ANSI relies upon international standards to make its assessments. ANSI itself operates in accordance with an international standard–ISO 17011–and has been verified by government and peer review assessments.

Going back to our onion analogy, you probably wouldn’t buy an onion that was missing its outer skin. Similarly, accreditation provides a layer of confidence in the entire system. And ANSI accreditation is the strongest assurance of accuracy, quality, and competence.

To learn more about ANSI accreditation, visit Make sure you check out our short video – How is Accreditation Like an Onion? – at

Lane Hallenbeck is the vice president of accreditation services at the ANSI (American National Standards Institute). ANSI is the coordinator of the private-sector-led U.S. standardization system, and provides accreditation services in the areas of product certification, personnel credentialing, and greenhouse gas verification and validation.

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