LEED-ND: Developing Viable Communities

by Matthew Pinsker
University of California, Santa Cruz
Daniel Matthew Silvernail Architect Intern

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) system certifies green projects and provides a checklist of environmental standards for land development that evaluates a neighborhood on a point based system.

The protocol was fully launched in 2010 and co-developed by three organizations, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Congress for New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is administered by the USGBC.

LEED-ND Graphic  Provided by CNU Tampa Bay

LEED-ND Graphic
Provided by CNU Tampa Bay

According to “A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development”, LEED-ND defines a neighborhood as “…a place with its own unique character and function, where people can live, work, shop, and interact with their neighbors” 4. In the aforementioned guide LEED-ND certified architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk illustrate a good traditional neighborhood as including but not limited to a discernible center, housing within proximity to this center, a variety of dwelling types, a variety of stores and commercial activity, connected streets, and a community decision process 4. When considering the listed criteria planners may want to evaluate their decision to use LEED-ND after reviewing local conditions and potential incentives of implementing this plan.

LEED-ND provides cities the option to use specific criteria ensuring neighborhoods are developed within a green framework. The criteria is represented by a point system primarily evaluated on three dimensions, 27 points can potentially be awarded to smart location and linkage- where to build, 44 to neighborhood pattern and design- what to build, and 29 to green infrastructure and buildings- how to manage environmental impacts. Some areas of the point system are stressed greater than others, for example a maximum of 12 points can be awarded toward walkability and two points are achievable for wastewater management. It is valuable for planners to remain cognizant that neighborhoods vary in resources and needs; accordingly the given community may not view an area deemed of high value similarly.

Potential incentives for an abiding community as stated in “A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development” include but are not limited to fee reductions, tax credits, and grants 20-21. Offering incentives to local governments, developers, or other decision-makers to adopt the LEED-ND protocol would theoretically ensure neighborhoods could afford to incorporate green development if they so choose. To develop a neighborhood under LEED-ND criteria seems to indicate an aim to establish a widely acknowledged base level of performance that controls ecological impact, potentially offering any interested party the opportunity of attainment.

Delaware Addition located in Santa Cruz, CA is an example of LEED for Neighborhoods

Delaware Addition located in Santa Cruz, CA is an example of LEED for Neighborhoods

LEED-ND is a voluntary program that offers neighborhoods base level criteria for controlling environmental decay while incorporating green building practices. Since neighborhoods are not homogenous it may be worthwhile for planners to scrutinize their jurisdiction and work with the community to determine a beneficial plan of action.

A gamut of decision-makers can encourage criteria under LEED-ND by offering aid towards development, allowing the decision for green development to be made by any community irrespective of available resources. LEED-ND provides neighborhoods pursuing sustainable development a revered systematic guide that if opted can lead to eco-friendly growth and accreditation, potentially extending forward thinking into a community’s posterity.

Good Traditional Neighborhood Criteria:
• A discernible center.
• Housing within a five minute walk of the center.
• A variety of dwelling types.
• A variety of stores and commercial activity.
• Flexible backyard “ancillary” buildings for working or living.
• A school within walking distance.
• Playgrounds near all dwellings.
• Connected streets.
• Narrow, shaded streets conducive to pedestrians and cyclists.
• Buildings close to the street at a pedestrian scale.
• Parking or garages placed behind buildings and away from street frontages.
• Prominent civic and public buildings.
• A community decision process for maintenance, security, and neighborhood development.

Potential Benefits of Incorporating LEED-ND:
• Fee reductions.
• Tax credits.
• Grants.
• Allowing additional density or building height.
• Sharing the cost of new infrastructure required by projects.
• Marketing enhancement.

To learn more about the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) protocol, a helpful resource is the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Website.

For further reading:
“A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development: How to Tell if Development is Smart and Green”.

The U.S. Green Building Council, the Congress for New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development: How to Tell if Development is Smart and Green.” n.p. n.d.: 1-39. Web. 2 April 2014.

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