There Goes the Neighborhood

LEED-ND looks to "encourage smart growth and new urbanist best practices, promote the design of neighborhoods that reduce vehicle miles traveled and communities where jobs and services are accessible by foot or public transit".

Green buildings has been one of the major contributing factors increasing the awareness for a greener society in the United States and around the world. The United State Green Building Council (USGBC) is the embattled national leader with its third-party rating systems known as LEED that gives green guidelines for new construction, existing buildings and other types of construction. Of course, if you're reading this website, I'm sure you've heard about LEED over and over and over. Just in case you're not savvy, everything you ever need to know can be found at www.usgbc.org.

As one of the standing champions for sustainable design with thousands of projects in the US and many other countries, the USGBC is looking to enlarge its influence from individual buildings to mixed-use, multi-acre neighborhood developments.

Back in 2004, 15 people representing the USGBC, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council formed the LEED for Neighborhood Development Core Committee to put together the LEED-Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Rating System. LEED-ND looks to "encourage smart growth and new urbanist best practices, promote the design of neighborhoods that reduce vehicle miles traveled and communities where jobs and services are accessible by foot or public transit". The core committee completed a preliminary draft in September 2005, only 18 months after forming the committee, and immediately held a 45-day comment period.

The USGBC has been criticized for its sole focus on individual buildings, but with the creation of the LEED-ND Rating System, that analysis may be void. During the 45-day comment period, the core committee received over 4,000 comments from advocates, architects, planners and government. Nearly 50% of the comments came from advocates with another 30% coming from professionals within the design community.

The comments were incorporated to shape the pilot draft of the LEED-ND Rating System which was launched in February 2007. Interested project teams had until April 2007 to submit expression of interest forms to be considered to participate in the pilot process. Up to 120 projects will be selected as pilot projects. Project teams were to be notified by mid-May if they made the cut, but around the same time the projects were to be announced, the USGBC sent out an email letting those that submitted expressions of interest the selection process was taking longer than expected due to the "overwhelming response" seems like the new rating system is off to a good start.

Some of the credits available within the LEED-ND Rating system deal with issues such as wetland and water body conservation, access to public space, local food production, heat island reduction, district heating and cooling and comprehensive waste management. Similar credits appear in the other LEED rating systems, however with LEED-ND, the design criteria is looking for overall application to a development versus within a single building.
Once the pilot projects are selected, the program will run until 2008. The feedback gathered from the pilot will further shape a final version of the rating system, in much the same way the comments did for the preliminary draft. The final LEED-ND Rating System will be put to ballot, and then released during 2009.

Other LEED rating systems have being adopted by local, state and federal agencies as business as usual for construction. It will be interesting to see how well the design professions use this new system with clients, and see if clients will embrace this more radical approach to large-scale projects. Also, it will be interesting if developers and contractors, unwilling to adapt to the changing green market, will cite cost increases for better neighborhood design in the same way they have done with green building. More importantly, if LEED-ND is another big success for the USGBC what's next, LEED-Nation?

Tags: Architecture | Green Building