Voting closes on a new LEED rating system focusing on neighborhood development Sept. 17. The draft, expected to be approved with minimal revisions, moves LEED certification out of the realm of buildings and into land development.

Expanding the benefits of green building to include its surroundings, 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 new LEED certification will apply to private-sector developers, it will most likely shape how the public and elected officials view land development -- which will ultimately impact public-sector operations such as parks, trails, streets, sidewalks, and utilities. Plus, with the combination of current widespread acceptance of LEED programs and a new presidential administration that supports green technology and livable communities, this proposed certification should influence the public sector at a much quicker pace than previous LEED rating systems had.

The draft seeks to reduce the impacts of urban sprawl by emphasizing the creation of compact, walkable, vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods with good connections to nearby communities. The rating system will include points for reduced automobile dependence, the use of existing water and sewer systems, walkable streets, transportation demand management, and the voidance of flood plains. LEED for Neighborhood Development communities will be defined as:

  • Locations that are closer to existing town and city centers
  • Areas with good transit access
  • Infill sites
  • Previously developed sites
  • Sites adjacent to existing development.

The draft also encourages the selection of sites that minimize habitat fragmentation and help preserve areas for recreation.

Proposed criteria covers:

  • Smart location and linkage
  • Neighborhood pattern and design
  • Green infrastructure and buildings
  • Innovation and design process.

LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a development's location and design meet accepted high levels of environmentally responsible, sustainable development. LEED for Neighborhood Development is a collaboration among the U.S. Green Building Council, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Nearly 240 pilot projects field-tested the draft version of the rating system.

Source: American Public Works Association Congress & Exposition
Session: The Greening of Land Development and Public Works: LEED for Neighborhood Development
Michael Steele (msteele@tierra-row.com), Director, Tierra Environmental Planning
Tucson, Ariz.
Mon., Sept. 14, 2009
4 - 4:50 p.m.