LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]. It’s a term we’re hearing more and more, but its true significance remains a mystery to most. Yes, it’s a program that evaluates and certifies green buildings across the country, but what does that mean in practice?
The majority of LEED projects are commercial or institutional buildings. That was a good start for the rating system, as these structures are often the biggest resource users, but as we begin to re-envision our neighborhoods and communities, it’s essential to think of how we might incorporate the principles LEED espouses into the design and planning of them, as well. But how?
Fortunately, the Natural Resources Defense Council (together with Rami + Associates) has produced “A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development: How to Tell If Development is Smart and Green.” The aim is to introduce the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standard for neighborhood development to a broader audience. Established as a national benchmark for sustainable community design in April 2010, LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) was developed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Congress for New Urbanism, and the U.S. Green Building Council. According to its producers, “A Citizens’ Guide” is available online for free and was designed to help users improve communities and neighborhoods by applying LEED-ND. It covers a broad range of relevant issues, from determining what to build (walkable streets, bicycle-friendly design, areas that facilitate use of public transit) to how to manage environmental impacts (reducing pollution, adaptive reuse, more efficient heating and cooling).
Moving beyond a solitary focus on individual buildings in favor of viewing a neighborhood in context is essential. LEED-ND is a good step in the right direction, but many more tools—and stronger leadership to insure its implementation—are needed.