A rating system that expands Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification of green buildings to include their surroundings is expected to be announced by the end of the year.

The LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System integrates the principles of smart growth, new urbanism, and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.

Although the system applies to private-sector developers, it's bound to influence how the public and elected officials view land use — which, in turn, ultimately will impact operations such as parks, trails, streets, sidewalks, and utilities. Experts predict that other factors, such as widespread acceptance of LEED programs and the Obama administration's emphasis on environmental sustainability, also will accelerate public-sector acceptance compared to previous LEED rating systems.

The goal is to supplant urban sprawl with compact, mixed-use neighborhoods that offer residents energy-neutral connections to nearby communities. Projects will receive points for reducing dependence on personal vehicles by offering other transportation options, incorporating existing water and sewer infrastructure, making streets safely walkable, and avoiding the creation of flood plains.

LEED for Neighborhood Development is a collaboration of the U.S. Green Building Council, Congress for New Urbanism, and Natural Resources Defense Council. Nearly 240 pilot projects field-tested the rating system's draft, which was approved in early October.

For more information about LEED, visit www.usgbc.org.