U.S. GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL: Neighborhood Development Update

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Greenbuild 2011

Citizen's Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development

LEED for Neighborhood Development at the Local Level


Greenbuild 2011


USGBC is gearing up for Greenbuild this year and we hope you are too! We are mixing up the 2011 conference and expo a bit this year, so please note the following changes:
1. Greenbuild is heading north of the border this year to Toronto, Canada. If you do not have a passport or need to renew, do it soon!
2. The conference is a month earlier than in the past running from October 4-7th. The earlier date means warmer weather!* The LEED for Neighborhood Development team makes no guarantee that the weather will be warmer, so pack accordingly.

There will be a number of LEED for Neighborhood Development educational sessions and other events so make sure you don't miss the conference.
Register today »

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Citizen's Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development

In May, the Natural Resources Defense Council released A Citizen's Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development, a user-friendly handbook for local citizens interested in learning how to make development in their communities more sustainable. The guide is meant to empower you to advocate for innovative solutions in your own community. For more information, visit nrdc.org/cities/smartgrowth/leed.asp and the Switchboard blog.

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LEED for Neighborhood Development at the Local Level: City of Bellingham, WA

As highlighted in the recently updated document A Local Government Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development local governments produce many types of site-specific documents that can draw on general principles or specific standards from LEED for Neighborhood Development in order to shepherd sustainable development. By incorporating criteria from the rating system into their small/specific area and sector plans, communities can guide redevelopment to meet sustainable outcomes while allowing that development to adapt to market conditions. The process of using LEED for Neighborhood Development certification by aligning local regulations with the rating system requirements.

The City of Bellingham and LEED for Neighborhood Development Bellingham is a city of approximately 81,000 people situated in the state of Washington along Bellingham Bay. In order to manage its population growth and comply with state growth management requirements, Bellingham is working to direct population increases toward urban centers. The City's Comprehensive Plan outlined a strategy of developing "Urban Village" subarea plans for a handful of its 25 neighborhoods and specifically encourages the use of LEED for Neighborhood Development to measure a subarea plan's long-term sustainability. This strategy led directly to new zoning and regulations in support of the "Urban Village" plans.



City planning staff utilized the rating system during development of both the Samish Way Urban Village (SWUV) (2009) and the Fountain District Urban Village (FDUV) (2010) plans. Initially developed as an area of gas stations and motels to serve automobile travelers along the original west coast highway (Pacific Highway 1), the Samish Way plan presents a framework for guiding sustainable development and prioritizing city investment in existing areas. Neighborhood residents, businesses and local nonprofit Sustainable Connections conducted an extensive outreach effort to gauge interest in adding a greater mix of uses to the Samish Way corridor while making it more walkable and dynamic. This effort paved the way for the City-sponsored master planning process and ultimate development of the urban village plan. Connections and compatibility with surrounding areas is vital to both plans with a focus on commercial cores and appropriate transitions to residential uses.

After drafting these urban village plans, city staff evaluated how each neighborhood, when redeveloped, might score under the pilot version of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system. In areas where the neighborhood might not meet criteria, staff tried to make improvements to the plans. Staff estimated that if the neighborhoods were redeveloped as envisioned, they would achieve at least Silver and Certified levels of certification, respectively.

"LEED for Neighborhood Development criteria provide quantitative measurements for some aspects of good urban development that can be otherwise difficult to analyze, such as a compact street grid, pedestrian friendliness, mix of business and housing types, et cetera," notes Darby Galligan, Development Specialist with the City of Bellingham. "Using these measurement tools to analyze our draft plans showed us the areas where each urban village was really on target, and which areas were weaker and could use improvement. This helped inform the public and City Council of the strengths and weaknesses of each project and ensured we were covering all the elements of successful infill development."



City staff were not the only ones who employed LEED for Neighborhood Development. Students at Western Washington University (WWU) used the rating system to analyze the master plan for Samish Way. The City has also developed a formal relationship with WWU and has helped students evaluate various types of plans against LEED for Neighborhood Development, including a Downtown Revitalization plan and hypothetical Transit Oriented Communities.

Bellingham has engaged with LEED in other ways as well. The City offers incentives to projects that obtain LEED certification under any of the LEED rating systems, including LEED for Neighborhood Development. In the Samish Way Urban Village, LEED Silver Certification (or equivalent) qualifies for a density bonus (1.0 FAR) and a reduction in the Green Area Factor Requirement for landscaping. Citizen and local government use of LEED for Neighborhood Development in Bellingham provide an excellent example of the value of this rating system as an evaluation tool and incentive for guiding a community toward a more sustainable future.

Gretchen Sweeney is a Manager in the LEED department at USGBC and focuses on the intersection of government and LEED for Neighborhood Development.

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