U.S. GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL: Neighborhood Development Update

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Neighborhood Development on the Road

Come connect with us! We will be at the following events and conferences:

The Front Porch

Sophie Lambert - Director, LEED for Neighborhood Development

As summer comes to a close, I am struck by the progress that has been made and the work that is still ahead of us. I am inspired by the important work by developers, their project teams, and local governments to bring more green neighborhoods to cities, counties, and towns across the country. LEED for Neighborhood Development is proving to be a valuable leadership framework through the almost 90 pilot projects that have completed at least one stage of certification, including more complete stage 3 projects (you can learn more about Renaissance Place at Grand in St Louis in the interview with William Carson from McCormack Baron Salazar below). I am also pleased by the initial interest in LEED 2009 for Neighborhood Development and the almost 50 projects that have committed to pursuing the rating system. Staff is busy working to complete the submittal forms for full certification, which will be available later this year.

Greenbuild 2010

We also are preparing for Greenbuild in Chicago and hope that many of you will join us for the full slate of exciting offerings on sustainable communities and LEED for Neighborhood Development. Educational sessions and tours will address the rating system from a range of perspectives, such as affordable housing, green infrastructure, and development decisions. If you want to gain an understanding of the rating system, I encourage you to take the ND 251 Workshop, which will be offered on Monday, November 15.
Register for the ND 251 Workshop »

(Note: Workshops held at Greenbuild are available to individuals who are not attending the full conference. Click on "Register now for Greenbuild 2010" at the top of the screen, and select the workshop only.)

Also, while you are wandering around the loop (yes, we are okay with you leaving the convention center), be sure to check out the Neighborhoods Go Green! exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which is located at 224 South Michigan Avenue. This free exhibit will open in conjunction with Greenbuild and will provide an analysis of LEED for Neighborhood Development as well as exemplar projects.

We continue to talk with local governments across the country as they consider how they can best leverage LEED for Neighborhood Development, to bring new sustainable development to their communities. Some recent references to the rating system include Cal Trans listing LEED for Neighborhood Development as a best practice for transit oriented development in their Smart Mobility Handbook, and the City of Azusa, CA using it as selection criteria for the re-development of the Atlantis Gardens neighborhood. To help educate local government land use and transportation planners, Eliot Allen of Criterion Planners has developed a workshop on how local governments can leverage LEED for Neighborhood Development. The workshop will be offered at the EcoDistricts Summit in Portland on Oct. 27 and at Greenbuild on Nov. 19.

As always, please share any feedback on our program and this newsletter at neighborhoods@usgbc.org.


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Save 20% with USGBC's Fall Discount

Summer is over; It's time to get serious. And there's no better time than fall to invest in education. USGBC is offering 20% off our educational materials until Oct. 31. For more information, check out www.usgbc.org/discount.

Interested in learning more about LEED for Neighborhood Development? Check out the full listing of online trainings and workshops.

New opportunity for USGBC members: Webinar Subscriptions

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LEED for Neighborhood Development and the LEED Credentials Webcast

Are you interested in the LEED AP Neighborhood Development credential? Join GBCI for their webcast, LEED for Neighborhood Development and the LEED Professional Credentials, on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, from 2-3 p.m. ET. They'll provide information about the LEED AP Neighborhood Development and Credential Maintenance Program (CMP), review eligibility requirements, discuss the benefits of earning a designation, and answer your questions.

Register Now »

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Center for Green Schools

Center for Green Schools
USGBC's Center for Green Schools officially launched on Oct. 1, 2010 at Stoddart Elementary in Washington, DC. To ensure that every student has the opportunity to attend a green school within this generation, the Center was founded to provide the resources and support to elevate dialogue, accelerate policy and institut innovation toward green schools and campuses. For more information visit www.centerforgreenschools.org.

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Affordable Green Neighborhoods Grant Program

Almost two dozen applications for the Affordable Green Neighborhoods Grant Program were received by the Sept. 9, 2010 deadline. The recipients of the grant will be announced at the Affordable Housing Summit at Greenbuild on Nov. 16, 2010.

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On the Front Lines of LEED for Neighborhood Development: A Conversation with William M. Carson, LEED AP, McCormack Baron Salazar

Bill Carson In this feature we talk with Bill Carson, Vice President & Director of Sustainability at McCormack Baron Salazar, which developed Renaissance Place at Grand in St. Louis, Mo., the largest of the six LEED for Neighborhood Development certified Stage 3 projects completed to date.

How did you get involved in sustainable development?

I've been with McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS) for four years now. I joined the company to work on operations, strategy, and to deepen the company's approach to green development. When I started, MBS had green aspirations, but had only one green-certified development, and the green efforts were largely unfunded. The project—Tremont Pointe in Cleveland—was successful, but we didn't have other green developments in the pipeline for certification and there were no LEED APs on staff. We started pushing our design standards forward, looked at existing developments and figured out how we could move them towards LEED certification. We started looking at our inner office practices also; for example, we didn't have a recycling program for an office of 170 people and went through 26,000 Styrofoam cups a year.

Four years later we have completed one of the only LEED Platinum schools in the country, (Crossroads College Prep School in St. Louis) and achieved LEED for Neighborhood Development certification on one project, Renaissance Place at Grand, and we are awaiting final LEED for Neighborhood Development review for University Place in Memphis. We received three major Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants last year under the ARRA Capital Funds Recovery Competition for Green Communities (more than any other developer), and have three projects that are breaking ground now in Miami, Memphis, and St. Louis. They are extremely well-situated green-development sites. We also have an internal solar energy company called Sunwheel that provides power to our own developments and other developers. I know that we were not thinking about sustainability several years ago near the level that we are at today.

How did you find out about LEED for Neighborhood Development and what motivated you to put the Renaissance Place at Grand and University Place projects in the pilot program?

I joined my local chapter of USGBC shortly after joining MBS, but had been paying attention to sustainability for many years as an engineer and buisiness person. I joined the USGBC e-mail list when I found out about LEED for Neighborhood Development and started looking at our portfolio of completed and nearly completed developments that might be eligible; I thought that Renaissance Place would be great – it's right in our back yard, we were near completion, and it was easy to gather data. At University Place in Memphis, the project manager was already interested in sustainability and had started the process of registering individual buildings under LEED for Homes and Energy Star. In terms of the most decorated development that we have, we hope the site receives LEED for Neighborhood Development to accompany its current LEED for Homes, and Energy Star certification.

What reaction have you received from the local community, the city, and other partners when they hear you are pursuing LEED for Neighborhood Development certification? Have you seen benefits to utilizing LEED?

There's definitely been impact. Our design and construction teams have always been fantastic, but these awards have added a confidence boost internally. We can do this again and it will not break the bank financially. From the perspective of future developments, we received interest from other cities and the housing authorities in cities where we have already been working. We are being asked to provide our portfolio of green experience, and having LEED for Neighborhood Development developments under our belt gives us a level of credibility that only few developers can bring to the table. From the perspective of residents and stakeholders, the developments that we build are beautiful mixed-income, apartment and townhouse communities on the sites of formerly extremely distressed housing. The first thing that people notice is the beautiful neighborhood that we are building. The visual appeal and the change in the aesthetics of the neighborhood is the biggest change that they see.

Our residents also know that the project is a green development and we have been actively promoting that. It shows up in newsletters, we have the LEED for Homes plaque in the management office in University Place. We have also offered summer youth programs in the last two years in University Place that concentrated on sustainability. Last year, the topic was Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, as well as water and resource conservation. This past year's topic was solar energy and community gardening. We will continue to work with kids on sustainability projects. It's taken a deeper push than just a marketing campaign.

I'd also like to mention that the Renaissance Place LEED for Neighborhood Development boundary includes not only housing and two neighborhood parks, but also the headquarters of the St. Louis Housing Authority (SLHA), which McCormack Baron Salazar developed last year. As a result, SLHA employees and residents of assisted housing from throughout the city visit this LEED-certified site on a regular basis and get to see the beauty and benefits of green even if they do not yet live in a green home themselves.

Have there been a lot of missteps in the process of LEED certification and have you learned from those mistakes? Do you see the process of certification easier in comparison to the first time you applied for the certification?

There are certainly a lot of things that we learned from the Renaissance Place project that we can take with us as we go into the University Place certification process. We held on to the first round submission of the University Place until we got the comments from Renaissance place so that we didn't submit the same mistakes twice. We did learn quite a bit.

Every one of the systems is different. For example, the Memphis EcoBuild standard, Chicago Green Homes standard, Enterprise Green Communities are different systems, some of which have different thresholds for certification, but we are trying our best to understand the things that are common to all the rating systems and include those into our basic design standards when we work with architects, contractors, and Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) providers. Across the trades, we try to make sure that they understand that "green" are minimum requirements and not add-ons to our projects. We require that they take photographs and prove that they did their Storm Water Protection Program (SWPPs), document their waste management techniques, and follow the budget. Every time we do something like that we realize the need to put that in the upfront construction requirement, so that next time around we are not scrambling for another standard.

Have you experienced push-back on following the LEED requirements from your contractors?

It really has to do with interpretation. Some engineers do not understand architectural technicalities and vice versa. When I get answers on an energy model that don't make sense from one of our MEPs, I question the data and methods that are causing an error. With historical rehabilitations, it's difficult to establish a baseline energy profile if, for example, the original use was a school and the new use will be an apartment building – how do you reconcile the different energy uses? This is the guidance that people need…We recently had some air conditioning systems that were vastly oversized for a particular building. The engineer used old rules of thumb, instead of properly sizing systems based on the better building envelope, and made wrong assumptions. We are still working through these things. The benefit of working with the same team members from one project to another is that they won't repeat mistakes.

Is there anything else that you would point out as ups and downs about the LEED for Neighborhood Development program, or anything interesting from the process?

In the initial self scoring checklist we would have been more conservative. Initially, I anticipated Renaissance Place to be LEED Silver and the University Place to be LEED Gold. As it turns out, both projects are at the Certified level, but if I had taken time upfront to be conservative about certain points, I would have helped adjust the neighborhood design to achieve more points and a higher certification level. At the same time, there is a cost/benefit consideration: we have to ask ourselves what the additional point is worth, and does it actually improve energy, water, and material use.

Those are the conversations that we are having a lot now for future projects. We are looking at some more ambitious technologies. We generally stuck with traditional architecture that fits within the design sensibilities of the area that we are working in. When you go to Phoenix our work looks like you are in Phoenix; when you are in Miami, you see that you are in Miami. We are not designing what I call "spaceship green" with the soaring overhangs and solar panels that are hanging on the side of a building. I call our buildings "quietly green" so that you have to look to notice the greener elements. We are starting to get more confidence with newer green technology out there so that I can bump us up to higher levels of certification.

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