LEED and Environmental Design

What is LEED?

Launched by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in the mid-1990s, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED rating system measures a building's or development's compliance with several categories of requirements that are designed to limit the structure's negative impacts on the natural environment. For example, developments are rewarded for decreasing energy consumption, limiting pollutant runoff, and promoting alternative forms of transportation. A project can earn LEED Certification on several levels, depending on its degree of compliance.

Though the LEED rating system was originally intended for commercial office space, it quickly became apparent that all building types could benefit from environmentally-sustainable designs. There are currently nine different rating systems, which address all types of development from schools and homes to the development of entire neighborhoods. A description of these rating systems, along with their requirements, can be found at the USGBC website http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=222.

LEED for Neighborhood Development

While most of the LEED rating systems promote bicycling and walking, the pilot-stage LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) rewards developments that prioritize development density and network connectivity. The LEED-ND system evaluates a neighborhood as a whole, instead of focusing on a single building. By concentrating on density and connectivity, LEED-ND rewards communities that promote bicycling and walking, in addition to environmental stewardship.

Several of the LEED-ND requirements are explicitly intended to increase bicycling and walking. The following standards (or "credits" that count toward certification) are just a few examples of how non-motorized travel are promoted through LEED-ND:

  • Smart Location — A prerequisite requirement for LEED-ND, this credit requires that the development itself is located on an infill site, near transit lines, or in close proximity to other buildings and services.
  • Bicycle Network — A development can earn this credit if 50% of the dwelling units and business entrances are connected to a multitude of diverse uses (such as libraries, child care centers, or health care services) through an existing or proposed bicycle network. The credit also requires that a certain number of bicycle parking facilities are provided for non-residential and muti-family residential buildings.
  • Housing and Jobs /School Proximity — Two separate credits evaluate the development's proximity to essential destinations like housing, jobs, and schools. In order to meet the requirements, these services must be available within ½-mile walking distances.
  • Walkable Streets — A project can earn up to eight points by promoting a pedestrian-friendly environment. Specific requirements include continuous sidewalks, minimum sidewalk widths, and maximum speed limits for automobiles.

In addition to these credits are dozens more that allow a project to prove its commitment to community connectivity, development density, and sustainability. For a complete listing of LEED-ND requirements, view the pilot version of the rating system here http://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=2845.

More Information

Visit the USGBC at http://www.usgbc.org

To see a listing of over 200 of the projects being considered for certification under LEED-ND, visit http://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=2960

For more information on LEED and sustainable development, complete with case studies and a guide to the different rating systems, visit http://www.buildinggreen.com/.

Individuals interested in promoting bicycling and walking through sustainable development can join their local USGBC chapter by visiting http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=191

Planners, engineers, architects, and other development professionals can learn more about green building practices and become LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED AP). For information on professional accreditation, visit the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) at http://www.gbci.org/