Human beings are part of a larger ecosystem. Your home or apartment, your neighborhood business, your office building or school—they are all situated in specific areas, and how those buildings are placed and designed can affect both the environment and your community in positive or negative ways.
With LEED v4.1 credit categories like Sustainable Sites (SS), Natural Systems and Ecology (NS), and Location and Transportation (LT), project teams can nurture the local landscape, support well-being and promote responsible transportation options.
Natural Systems and Ecology in LEED v4.1
As Kathie Tovo, Mayor Pro Tem, Austin City Council, shared in a recent video, how cities and neighborhoods are designed can "enhance your experience of your everyday life, [and] also of your relationships with people." Pathways, parks and common spaces with trees, shrubs, flowers and other natural elements create pleasant surroundings, as well as meeting places for the community.
Many studies show that connecting people to nature is an important aspect of wellness, especially for children. Spending time in green spaces is beneficial for mental and physical health, yet not everyone has equal access to such spaces.
With LEED v4.1 for Cities and Communities: Plan and Design, the NS prerequisite Green Spaces addresses these issues through requirements like providing accessible green spaces of a certain square footage per person in the community, as well as locating green spaces within half a mile of residential units. For ecological priorities, projects can earn credit under Natural Resources Conservation and Restoration by maintaining wildlife habitat and aquatic buffer zones.
Sustainable Sites in LEED v4.1
The SS credit category has always promoted respect for our natural environment at every step of the building process. These credits reward project teams that design buildings to fit into their surrounding landscapes and minimize impact.
For example, here are a few updates from LEED v4.1 for Building Design and Construction (BD+C):
- The Protect or Restore Habitat credit has been updated with more accessible requirements for green roofs and soils, as well as a new vegetation section and resources for international conservation.
- The Rainwater Management credit now contains more detailed guidance on green infrastructure strategies and a tiered system of points for rainfall retention achievement.
- The Site Assessment credit adds specific sources for determining flood hazard areas, bodies of water and threatened species in a site survey.
- There is a greater emphasis across the category on landscaping with native vegetation and avoiding invasive species.
Location and Transportation in LEED v4.1
In the guidance for LEED v4.1 BD+C, you'll also find the updated credit for High Priority Site and Equitable Development. Project teams can gain one point for locating a buildings in a community with low income or high unemployment, or by cleaning up and developing on a brownfield site.
These options help both people and the environment—by building on currently developed land rather than expanding outward, and by adding green, affordable housing options that allow people to stay in their communities while also living in healthier, higher-performing buildings.
One to three points are available for the Access to Quality Transit credit, which encourages development in locations with strong public transportation options for residents. Public transit access provides people with more freedom of choice in employment, child care and education. Plus, public rail and bus lines can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in the community, as more cars are taken off the road.
Through its diverse array of credit categories and rating systems, LEED v4.1 helps all project teams achieve the same end goal: a more sustainable environment, a greener community and a stronger living standard for all people.