From: Ashley S. Miller, Sive Paget & Riesel, P.C., More from this Affiliate
Published May 27, 2010 09:44 AM

LEED System Expands to Include Neighborhood-Scale Developments

The U.S. Green Building Council ("USGBC") recently released a certification system for green neighborhood development, known as LEED-ND.[1] LEED-ND expands the well-known LEED system for green buildings to larger-scale projects ranging in size from two buildings to multiple buildings on sites up to 320 acres. The system incorporates the principles of new urbanism, emphasizing mixed-use planning and walkable neighborhoods, and was developed in concert with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Congress of the New Urbanism. While LEED-ND is primarily designed for neighborhood-scale projects, it may also apply to campus-style developments, such as university campuses, military bases, resort developments, religious retreat centers or summer camps.


Some notable features of the LEED-ND system include:

* Each project must have at least one certified green building;
* A project’s site must be contiguous property, but may include "conclaves of non-conforming properties" that may be exempt from LEED-ND requirements;
* Project sponsors should have control over or title to 50% or more of the project land area.

Projects are evaluated based on a number of prerequisites and credits, earned by incorporating design elements which are grouped by category, including:

* Smart location and linkage – relates to transportation, location, and land preservation;
* Neighborhood pattern & design – relates to community character, mix of uses, and walkability;
* Green infrastructure and buildings – examines building design and construction with regard to energy and water use, and sustainable best practices;
* Innovation and design process – grants credits for "exemplary and innovative" performance, beyond existing credit structures;
* Regional priority – allows credits unique to a project’s local environmental priorities.

The LEED-ND certification process takes place in three stages:

* Stage 1 – conditional approval of plans, to enable projects to build local support;
* Stage 2 – pre-certified plans, intended for projects that have received necessary permits or are under construction, and may assist in securing funding or tenants;
* Stage 3 – to be formally certified projects must have completed construction, and have achieved all prerequisites and credits sought in the first two stages of review, subject to any intervening changes in the LEED-ND system.

Generally LEED-ND applies to newly-constructed projects, but substantial renovations of 50% or more of existing square footage may allow existing neighborhoods to apply for certification.

Implementing LEED-ND may raise a series of legal issues, because the rating system operates at a scale that has traditionally been governed by zoning laws and municipal comprehensive plans. The USGBC warns that LEED-ND should not be used a substitute for comprehensive planning, but project applicants and municipalities should be aware that implementing LEED-ND may itself trigger the need for revisions to a municipal plan or zoning code.

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Link to US Green Building Council

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