Wednesday, May 5, 2010

LEED ratings extended to neighborhoods

A new benchmark for green urban design has been launched with announcement that the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) rating system is now out of its pilot phase.

The announcement was made last week in Washington, D.C. by the USGBC, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU).

LEED-ND integrates the principles of smart growth, new urbanism and green building, encouraging development within or near existing communities and public infrastructure. The goal is to reduce urban sprawl, increase transportation choice, encourage healthy living, and protect the environment.

Projects can range from small developments to whole communities and are measured on a 110-point scale in three categories: smart location and linkage, neighborhood pattern and design, and green infrastructure and buildings.

Locally, the Village of Greenhills residential redevelopment and the Arbors of Pleasant Ridge are registered under the LEED ND 1.0 program.

"Sustainable communities are prosperous communities for the occupants and businesses which inhabit them," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the USGBC. "LEED for Neighborhood Development projects are strategically located in or surrounding metropolitan areas – often times revitalizing brownfields, infills or other underutilized spaces, opening new revenue streams, creating jobs opportunities and helping to drive the local, state and national economies."

Both the NRDC and CNU were instrumental in establishing LEED-ND, the former working closely with Smart Growth America and the latter working with leading planners and architects from the New Urbanist movement.

"Half of the buildings we will have in 25 years are not yet on the ground," said Kaid Benfield, director of the Smart Growth Program for NRDC. "Where we put them is even more important to the environment than how we build them, and NRDC is proud to stand alongside our partners with a system that helps guide them to the right places while avoiding the wrong ones."

A 2009 study by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute entitled "The Economic Value of Walkability" (PDF) found that households in automobile-dependent communities spend 50 percent more of their money on transportation than those in dense, mixed-use communities – approximately $8,500 per year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advocate transit-oriented development and its resulting proximity to services, amenties and jobs as a way to improve human health and build economic capital.

"LEED for Neighborhood Development contains the components for compact and complete neighborhoods," said John Norquist, president and CEO of the CNU. "With walkable streets, appropriately-scaled schools, and a mix of amenities close by, residents can lower their environmental impact while improving their quality of life."

"LEED for Neighborhood Development projects are designed to highlight the best in a community," Fedrizzi said. "By bridging together adjoining districts, neighborhood developments take advantage of the greatest things a community has to offer – the people and amenities which enrich our lives on a daily basis."

LEED-ND, which has been in its pilot phase since 2007, is the seventh LEED rating system released by USGBC. A LEED Accredited Professional Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND) credential is expected to launch this spring.

USGBC is comprised of 78 local affiliates, more than 18,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 140,000 LEED professional credential holders.

Previous reading on BC:
Transit-oriented zoning to be before Cincinnati council by September (4/5/10)
USGBC seeking public comment for LEED neighborhoods (5/19/09)