LEED-Neighborhood Development (ND) Rating System Gears Up for Launch


The National Building Museum held a session on Sustainable Communities, which highlighted the latest changes to the LEED Neighborhood Development (ND) rating system, and featured one pilot project developed using LEED-ND in the Washington, D.C. area. LEED-ND will be fully launched as a rating system in late summer /early fall 2009. LEED-ND credit categories include: smart location and linkage; neighborhood pattern and design; and green infrastructure and buildings. LEED-ND can cover urban, rural, suburban, commercial, residential and mixed-use developments. Most of the 29 certified LEED-ND projects are urban, transit-oriented, and involve walking and biking. LEED-ND was developed through a partnership among U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Congress for New Urbanism (CNE), and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC).

USGBC hopes LEED-ND will be the “national standard for green neighborhood development,” and become a powerful tool for combating surburban sprawl. USGBC sees auto-dependent surburban neighborhoods as a major source of unnecessary C02 emissions. Suburban houses are often hidden in cul-de-sacs, and stores, work places, and residences are often far apart from each other, leading to longer driving times (and increased emissions). 

The LEED-ND team recently completed a review process based on results from 200 plus pilot projects, and updated the rating system. USGBC mentioned that the first round of comments yielded 5,200 comments, and this most recent round an additional 1,400. The rating system now includes credits outlined by the Sustainable Sites Initiative for wetlands, and requires new development LEED-ND master plans to include at least one LEED green building. In any green neighborhood, new buildings constructed must aim for improved water and energy efficiency. USGBC doesn’t want cities or communities to adopt LEED-ND as code, but hopes communities will incentivize LEED-ND-style developments, provide expedited review processes, and evaluate existing zoning codes / regulations against LEED-ND and remove barriers to sustainable communities.

JBG Partners, a “sustainable community developer,” and developer of a LEED-ND pilot project in Maryland, argues that there must be a business case for sustainability. In developing a new transit-oriented development near Twinbrook Station just over the border with D.C., JBG Partners aimed at 26 acres of existing parking lots, replacing them with 1,595 multifamily residential units, 220,000 square feet of street front retail space, and acres of public open space with multiple parks and courtyards (read NRDC post on this).

JBG Partners explained that the LEED-ND certification process took seven months. Total fees included USD 14,000 for USGBC, and USD 45,000 for documentation. Some 200-250 hours were spent by the development team on LEED-ND certification. JBG said the project was in the middle of the LEED Gold standard. “There are always trade-offs with sustainable design.” For example, JBG said they received points for public participation, but those public comments yielded changes that deducted points. The community requested a park, but the new park’s lawn raised water usage, which led to the deductions.

JBG said there are new innovative financing schemes to package the high upfront costs associated with energy-efficient systems, which can yield major energy-use, water-use, and maintenance savings over time that can be passed onto tenants. An attendee also mentioned Fannie Mae’s transportation-efficient mortgages, which allow housing owners to take on larger mortgages if they live in transit-oriented developments that enable owners to cut transportation costs.

Image credit: NRDC Switchboard

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