April 29, 2010

LEED ratings developed for green neighborhoods

Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) announced the launch of the LEED for Neighborhood Development green neighborhoods rating system.

LEED for Neighborhood Development integrates the principles of smart growth, new urbanism and green building and benefits communities by reducing urban sprawl, increasing transportation choice and decreasing automobile dependence, encouraging healthy living, and protecting threatened species.

The rating system encourages development within or near existing communities and/or public infrastructure in order to reduce the environmental impacts of sprawl. By promoting communities that are physically connected, LEED for Neighborhood Development conserves land and promotes transportation efficiency and walkability. A 2008 study entitled “The Economic Value of  Walkability” found that households in automobile-dependent communities devote 50 percent more money — more than $8,500 annually — to transportation.

The correlation between transit-oriented development and proximity to services, amenities and jobs to human health benefits and economic capital has been found by numerous studies and is advocated by the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services. Furthermore, the connectivity to neighboring communities with existing transportation and thoroughfares or local retail and services, greatly benefits the citizens, businesses and local economy of the surrounding regions.

“Sustainable communities are prosperous communities for the occupants and businesses which inhabit them,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “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.”

LEED for Neighborhood Development strives to create healthy, safe neighborhoods in which people from a wide range of economic levels and age groups can live and work together, according to a USGBC statement. Green neighborhoods foster social inclusivity as they provide accessibility to transportation, jobs, resources, education and promote healthier lifestyles. LEED for Neighborhood Development projects include or are sited to have good access to schools, businesses, residences, shopping, dining and entertainment.

"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, Natural Resources Defense Council. “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."

NRDC helped to establish LEED for Neighborhood Development by soliciting the help of Smart Growth America, a national coalition of organizations working for better communities and recruiting smart growth experts to participate on the committee of volunteers that authored the rating system.  The principles of smart growth focus on the importance of considering location, transportation alternatives, equity, and community form when developing land use plans.

CNU brought a number of leading planners and architects from the New Urbanist movement to help shape the new rating system. New Urbanism promotes compact neighborhood form, a wide range of urban housing types from multi-unit buildings to single-family homes, a vibrant mix of uses within close proximity of each other, humane public spaces and well-connected streets and blocks serving users ranging from pedestrians and cyclists to transit riders and drivers.

“LEED for Neighborhood Development projects are designed to highlight the best in a community,” Fedrizzi continued. “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.”

The consensus-based process that drives the development of the LEED rating systems ensures and encourages the very best in building, design and development practices.

The scope of LEED for Neighborhood Development projects can range from small projects to whole communities and encompasses a broader set of stakeholders in the process. Because of the scale of neighborhood development, projects are measured on acreage — the first LEED rating system to use a measurement other than square footage.

This is the seventh LEED rating system released by USGBC and is the first comprehensive benchmark for green neighborhood design. Projects certifying under LEED for Neighborhood Development must achieve points in three major environmental categories: Smart Location & Linkage, Neighborhood Pattern & Design, and Green Infrastructure & Buildings across a 110-point scale.

Also launching this spring is the LEED Accredited Professional (AP) Neighborhood Development (ND) credential for professionals participating in the design and development of neighborhoods. To read more about the LEED AP ND credential, go to www.usgbc.org/credentials or to learn about the neighborhood development educational offerings, visit www.usgbc.org/leedcirriculum.

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