WASHINGTON - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhood Development - the pilot rating system launched jointly by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) - has a total of 238 developments signed up to participate in the pilot program, which will be the first national certification system for sustainable neighborhood design and development. According to the organizations, LEED for Neighborhood Development will integrate the principles of smart growth, new urbanism, and green building into the design and development of communities, moving beyond the single green building approach. The pilot is on track to be one of the largest launches yet for a new LEED program.

The LEED Green Building Rating System, developed by USGBC, was originally created as a way to define green building for new commercial construction and has since expanded to include building types ranging from existing buildings, commercial interiors, and core & shell developments to single-family homes and most recently neighborhood developments. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a development's location and design meet accepted high standards for environmentally responsible and sustainable development.

“The LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program is the next generation of green building thinking,” said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC president, CEO, and founding chair. “By applying what we’ve learned about individual green buildings to entire neighborhoods, we’re linking urban planning and environmentally friendly design and construction in a whole new, beneficial and healthy way.”

“Tapping the greenest building potential today means stepping outside the four walls of a structure into the places where projects are situated. Taking a more comprehensive approach lets builders draw on a host of new opportunities for reducing the overall environmental footprint by making communities mixed-use and pedestrian friendly,” said NRDC’s Ashok Gupta. “Creating a neighborhood-based standard encourages architects, builders, and planners to think bigger about energy savings, transportation impacts, and the overall shape of cleaner, healthier, more efficient communities.”

NRDC’s Smart Growth program helped to establish the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program by soliciting the help of several smart growth experts to participate on the committee of volunteers that authored the rating system. The principles of smart growth focus on the importance of considering location, transportation alternatives, equity, and community form when developing land use plans.

CNU brought a number of leading planners and architects from the New Urbanist movement to help shape the new rating system. New Urbanism promotes compact neighborhood form, a wide range of urban housing types from multi-unit buildings to singe-family homes, a vibrant mix of uses within close proximity of each other, public spaces, and well-connected streets and blocks serving users ranging from pedestrians and cyclists to transit riders and drivers.

“The strong launch of this rating system is part of a potential sea change in how communities develop and grow,” said John Norquist, president and CEO of the Congress for New Urbanism. “The conventional transportation and development practices of the past 50 years made creating green communities impossible - automobiles were needed to get everywhere. The LEED for Neighborhood Development system serves as a guideway for developing compact, walkable, well-connected communities with a holistic approach to sustainability.”

Over the course of the next year, the pilot projects will seek certification and help to test the Neighborhood Development system. USGBC, CNU, and NRDC will use the pilot program to learn more about how LEED for Neighborhood Development works with real-life pilot projects before revising and approving the final version of the system for a full public launch in 2008.

Within the group of 238 projects participating in the pilot, there are projects located in 39 different states and 6 other countries. The projects range in size and nature, from urban infill projects that are less than an acre in size to whole new communities that are more than 12,000 acres.

In addition, the pilot registration fee for 14 projects that are being led by nonprofit and community-based entities was partially or wholly covered by a grant from the Kresge Foundation of Detroit. The Kresge Foundation has been a leading supporter of sustainable design for the nonprofit sector across the country. This grant represents the Foundation’s commitment to a new direction, moving beyond the building-by-building approach found in its signature Planning Grant and Capital Challenge Grant Programs, to support of efforts to develop sustainable, green communities. The Kresge Foundation has noted that LEED for Neighborhood Development has a very important role to play by providing a framework to guide this work.

For more information about the LEED for Neighborhood Development program, visit www.usgbc.org/leed/nd.

Publication date:08/27/2007