Sunday, October 28, 2007

10/28 assignment: Writing about LEED-ND

As I was reading Beatley and the New Energy for Cities booklet, I was reminded of the U.S. Green Building Council’s various LEED programs, and especially their Neighborhood Development pilot program, which is being tested now and will probably be adopted in 2009. LEED-ND, as it’s called, was informed by green buildings practices in general and the past successes of the LEED programs for individual buildings, but was also guided by the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Quoting from the program overview: “Unlike other LEED products that focus primarily on green building practices, with relatively few credits regarding site selection and design, LEED for Neighborhood Development places emphasis on the design and construction elements that bring buildings together into a neighborhood, and relate the neighborhood to its larger region and landscape.” Like other LEED programs, LEED-ND has some baseline prerequisites for certification, but then offers a menu of other options that can be incorporated for extra points, earning the building a silver, gold, or platinum rating. Rather than reflect on a program which few people may know about, I’ll summarize the program below.

The categories for which credits are awarded are:

Smart Location & Linkages
Wetland and water conservation (required)
Ag land conservation (required)
Brownfield redevelopment
Reduced automobile dependence
Bicycle network
Housing and jobs proximity
Restoration of habitat

Neighborhood Pattern and Design
Compact Development (required)
Affordable rental and for-sale housing
Reduced parking footprint
Access to public facilities, transit, and open (recreational) space
Community outreach
Walkable streets
Local food production

Green Construction & Technology
Construction activity pollution prevention (required)
LEED certified buildings
Reuse of historic buildings
Energy efficiency
Reduced water use
Minimal site disturbance
Solar orientation
On-site renewable energy sources and energy generation
Wastewater and stormwater management

Innovation and Design Process
Innovation and exemplary performance
LEED accredited professional

Projects get no points for the required criteria, but can earn up to 106 points for meeting combinations of the optional criteria. To be certified, a project must garner at least 40 points; projects earning more can qualify for silver, gold, or platinum certification. The standards themselves are fairly objective, for instance, many of the transit-related criteria rely on Vehicular Miles Traveled calculations. Brownfield redevelopment, ecological and wetland conservation, and ag land conservation all hinge on existing government standards and classifications.

The LEED-ND Core Committee commissioned a study last year about the public health implications of the program. While not an appraisal of LEED-ND per se, the committee used the findings of the report to shape the ND criteria to reap the greatest public health impact. The report had a strong EJ component to it, addressing the impacts of neighborhood location on special populations such as women, the elderly, children, and low-income households and also discussing how social capital is accrued and leveraged within a community. For reasons to support smart growth, this report is excellent, giving substantive reasons for reduced vehicular travel ranging from fewer incidences of asthma and car-related injuries, to improved physical fitness and mental health.

In one way or another, almost every aspect of green cities that we have discussed in this course is encompassed by the rating system. It would be interesting to rate some of the projects described by Beatley in Chapter 10 and see how they fare with the LEED-ND certification process. Perhaps they could serve as benchmarks for some of the projects that are currently part of the pilot program in the US and Canada. 120 projects were admitted into the pilot program, but there are currently more than 220 projects across North America that will be seeking certification when complete. I had the chance to meet the developer of one of the projects this past week at the Urban Land Institute fall meeting in Las Vegas. Dockside Green, located in Victoria, British Columbia, is aiming for Platinum certification. The website touts the project’s sustainability as follows: “A model for holistic, closed-loop design, Dockside Green will function as a total environmental system in which form, structure, materials, mechanical and electrical systems will be interrelated and interdependent - a largely self-sufficient, sustainable community where waste from one area will provide fuel for another. Here you will find a dynamic environment where residents, employees, neighbouring businesses and the broader community will interact in a healthy and safe environment, reclaimed from disuse and contamination."

USGBC LEED-ND (find the program document, scoring rubric, and public health report here.)
Dockside Green

1 comment:

Melanie said...

There is also a new LEED-like system being developed to encourage sustainable landscapes. The Sustainable Sites initiative is now being developed through the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) and several other partners (including some partners from Cornell) and will eventually be incorporated into the USGBC's LEED program so that buildings and their landscapes can both be certified. More information is available at