Protecting America the Beautiful: How LEED helps save nature and habitat
Written by Jason Hartke and Sam Glass
In part, the environmental movement grew out of the great ideas of naturalists who were committed to the goals of nature conservation and habitat protection. Famous documentarian Ken Burns produced an amazing PBS series on the history of our national parks, calling them “America’s Best Idea.” Today, many land conservation groups carry on this mission of protecting America the Beautiful and all of our stunning natural areas and the precious fauna and flora that call it home.
At the U.S. Green Building Council, we understand the environmental toll and impact of the built environment, including how our pattern of development can often affect habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. For example, suburbs, fencing, roadways and other elements of the built environment often contribute to the fragmentation of existing wilderness into ecological “islands.” This leads to imbalances in species distribution, a weakened genetic pool, disruptions in natural migratory paths, and increases in human and animal interactions.
As part of our vision to realize a sustainable built environment, USGBC begin exploring about a year ago the idea of developing a new and innovative mechanism that would allow any of the thousands of LEED projects in the country to support meaningful habitat protection. After months of working with a diverse group of experts, we are introducing an alternative compliance pathway credit for the existing LEED Site Development credit called, Protect or Restore Habitat credit, SSpc83 for projects using LEED 2009. This new credit compliance pathway provides another means for projects to earn points towards LEED certification by contributing to the habitat conservation fund administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Fund (NFWF). While the original credit language rewards projects for donating land (this remains a viable approach for project teams with these resources), this new option allows projects to make a financial contribution instead. Project teams directly contribute to habitat protection in a meaningful way and in a way that is almost universally accessible.
This important work would not have been possible without the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’ lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The DDCF Environment Program enables communities to protect and manage wildlife habitat and create efficient built environments.USGBC is proud to partner with Doris Duke Charitable Foundation as we continue to support conservation.
As LEED continues to grow, this program will generate millions of dollars in habitat conservation funding that will be administered to ensure maximum return on investment – the sum of the whole will have a much larger impact than they would separately. By aggregating funds, NFWF will be able to leverage this financial support, allowing for more ambitious conservation programs than would otherwise be available if support was given in isolation. Working together, LEED teams will be able to protect one of our most important natural resources – the great outdoors.
As leaders in the green building movement, we hope all of you will learn about this new credit and consider using it in your next green building project. And tell us what type of conservation protection you would like to see? Is there a local conservation need near you? Add your comments below and let us know what you think.
ABOUT THE CREDIT
Projects using any of the BD+C rating systems are able to satisfy the credit by making a one-time payment of $0.40 per square foot of the total site area.
Projects using LEED EBOM: are able to satisfy the credit by making an annual payment of $0.05 per square foot of the total site area.
All funds will go directly to NFWF to address some of the greatest conservation needs. A report will be generated by NFWF bi-annually detailing how these resources are allocated.
NFWF, founded by Congressional Charter in 1984, and is a registered 501(c)(3), is among the largest conservation grant making organizations in the United States. They have administered over 12,000 grants to support conservation causes in all 50 states. NFWF supports some of the most important conservation needs around the United States including cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, development of wildlife corridors in the Rocky Mountains, and preservation of the remaining short grass prairie in the Great Plains, among many other initiatives.