At the Congress for New Urbanism, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will use LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) to rate the ”location efficiency” of community projects applying for its upcoming sustainable community planning grants (see earlier post). In total, HUD has some $3.25 billion available in grant funds. Shaun Donovan, HUD secretary, said “it’s time that federal dollars stopped encouraging sprawl and started lowering the barriers to the kind of sustainable development our country needs and our communities want.”
After a lengthy pilot phase, the LEED-ND rating system launched in April and is now used as a benchmark for green community development (see earlier post). LEED-ND can be used to “integrate green buildings into communities, reduce sprawl, increase transportation options, decrease automobile dependence, encourage healthy living and protect threatened species”, says HUD. Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council, adds that using LEED-ND will give local communities access to ”alternative transportation, jobs, and an increased quality of life.”
Sustainable communities provide more affordable transportation and housing, expenses that now constitute more than 50 percent of the average American’s household budget (see earlier post). As defined by HUD, green communities are “economically competitive, healthy, and opportunity-rich.” Secretary Donovan added that the ongoing U.S. housing crisis could be alleviated by improved access to all forms of transportation, arguing that “people are voting with their feet more and more and are in search of walkable neighborhoods with transportation options.”
In related news, “Land Use and Driving: The Role Compact Development Can Play in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” a new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), concludes that compact development (or “smart growth”) as promoted through LEED-ND is critical to mitigating climate change. “Land use will continue to be critical to lowering overall greenhouse gas emissions by reducing driving and energy consumption.” The ULI report examines trends in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and argues that there is a potential for reducing VMT by 8 to18 percent between now and 2050, when compact development is expected to reach 60 percent of all future development.
Image credit: 1600 Marion Street, Shaw Neighborhood, Washington, D.C. / We love D.C.