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The case for habitat protection - benefits to the economy and human health

Published on Written by Posted in Initiatives

Building green is one of the most important tenets in creating a sustainable future. In less than fifteen years, LEED has grown from a vision among a small group of committed environmentalist to a global force that certifies thousands of green buildings per year. Perhaps one reason for LEED’s rapid growth is that green building is embraced by individuals of all walks of life, and across the political spectrum. LEED addresses environmental concerns, however LEED also has benefits to human health, worker productivity, and can generate a higher return on investment than traditional buildings [1] [2] [3]. Just like LEED building project, land and habitat conservation also have triple-bottom line benefits in terms of sustainability

With the launch of SSpc83 – Pilot ACP for Site Development: Protect or Restore Habitat, (EB version) LEED challenges the world to not only incorporate sustainability in the built environment, but to apply this ethos to interactions with the natural world.

The benefits of habitat and land protection, like LEED, are not limited to the environmentalism. Conserving open spaces and ensuring healthy eco-system functioning have obvious appeal to environmentalist – however these conservation efforts can help the economy and human health.

The presence of wilderness in close proximity to residential properties has been linked in studies to add value to the property[4]. By maintaining open spaces, communities are able to ensure that homeowner investments are able to rise. This protects the investment of local homeowners, and maintains a strong tax base to support local government. Finally, conservation can support the local economy, in such ways as sustainable resource use, hunting and fishing access and eco-tourism.

Wilderness areas have been positively associated with human health. The presence of undeveloped regions in, or in proximity to a community – create local benefits to air, water and soil quality – all factors that have been linked to human health.

There are also numerous peer reviewed studies that have shown visiting natural setting improve emotional health. In most cases, undeveloped areas are aesthetically pleasing. Have you ever gone for a walk in the woods to clear your head? Well, it turns out this benefit is not just anecdotal; studies have shown therapeutic benefits among individuals who visit a natural setting[5]. Furthermore, access to open spaces allow for a variety of exercise opportunities, such as hiking, canoeing, and rafting.

Why do we protect the great outdoors? Why do we build green? The answer to both of these questions depends on who you ask – but if you think that the benefits resulting from both conservation and green building are limited to simple environmentalism – you are just scratching the surface.

  

FOOTNOTES 

[1] http://www.usgbc.org/articles/business-case-green-building

[2] http://www.usgbc.org/articles/costar-finds-higher-value-leed-certified-apartment-buildings

[3] LEEDuser report: “The Cost of LEED.” http://www.leeduser.com/strategy/cost-leed-report-and-understanding-cost-leed-project-certification. Accessed 10/14/13

[4] Phillips, S. (2004). “Windfalls for Wilderness: Land Protection and Land Value in the Green Mountains". Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University. http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-02042004-141616/unrestricted/Phillips-Spencer_VPISU-AAEC_PHD-Dissertation_2004-02-10.pdf

[5] Kaplan, S. (1995) “The Urban Forest as a Source of Psychological Well-Being.” Urban Forest Landscapes: Integrating Multidisciplinary Perspectives. University of Washington Press.

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    Sam Glass made 6 contributions in the last 6 months

Sam Glass

LEED Habitat and Land Conservation Fellow

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