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, a program reported to integrate the principles of smart growth, new urbanism and green building.
The program ‘s objectives include reducing urban sprawl, increasing transportation choice and decreasing automobile dependence, encouraging healthy living, and protecting threatened species, the USGBC said in announcing the launch of the rating system.
The rating system is designed to encourage 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, the system seeks to conserve land and promote transportation efficiency and walkability, the USGBC said.
The council said a 2008 study, “The Economic Value of Walkability,” found that households in automobile-dependent communities devote 50% 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 confirmed by numerous studies and is advocated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, the council said. Furthermore, the USGBC added, 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.
“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.
“LEED for Neighborhood Development contains the components for compact and complete neighborhoods. 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,” said John Norquist, president and CEO, Congress for the New Urbanism.
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.
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.
More information about neighborhood development educational offerings: www.usgbc.org/leedcirriculum.
LEED for Neighborhood Development 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.
More information about the LEED AP ND credential: www.usgbc.org/credentials.