LEED-ND Receives Expansion Approval, But Does it Have Shortcomings?

UPDATE: See below post commentary for corrected information and clarification on this topic.

In this month’s issue of the New Urban News, it was reported that the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) program has been approved by all of the groups that were asked to decide the fate of the program. The Center for New Urbanism, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Smart Growth America, and the US Green Building Council have voted to advance the program into a full-scale operation; prior to this approval, the program was only in its pilot stage. The program, started by the US Green Building Council, is a certification system, aimed at transforming the way buildings and communities are designed by encouraging more sustainable, environmentally-friendly features.  The LEED-ND ratings system is used nationwide on over 35,000 projects, noteworthy as the program was launched only about a decade ago.

While the LEED-ND program has been used widely, the question that stands is: “Has the ratings system promoted better development?” Admittedly, that’s a complicated question to answer. Does better development mean the use of more sustainable building materials? And, in general, what sort of criteria must be satisfied in order for something to be considered a ‘good development?’ While the question is complex, undoubtedly, it is linked to land-use planning. Reid Ewing of the University of Utah recently tackled this issue by connecting the LEED program to urban planning (his article is in the October 2009 issue of Planning Magazine, put out by the American Planning Association). Specifically, his concern centered on the physical (on-the-ground) outcomes of a LEED-ND certified building. When Ewing was working on a brownfield redevelopment project in California, his team conducted a traffic assessment study, completely independent of the LEED-ND program. The findings suggested that the mixed-use building that was being analyzed would not have a significant impact on automobile congestion in the region, because the design and neighborhood promoted walkability. But this aspect was not factored into the LEED-ND ratings system – as mentioned, the study was conducted independently. Does this suggest that the LEED-ND program has room for improvement? What other features or aspects should be included in the LEED certification program?

About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on October 20, 2009, in Neighborhoods, Public Infrastructure, Trends, Urbanism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You’re kidding, right? Are you this oblivious or did you just do no research before you wrote this? Here are some of your quotes:

    “The LEED-ND ratings system is used nationwide on over 35,000 projects, noteworthy as the program was launched only about a decade ago.”

    – Actually, it has been used on 0 projects. It has been piloted on just over 150 projects, but none of them have been certified. That’s what was just passed. It couldn’t be used before.

    “While the LEED-ND program has been used widely, the question that stands is: “Has the ratings system promoted better development?” Admittedly, that’s a complicated question to answer. ”

    – Actually, it hasn’t been used widely. It hasn’t been used. It’s been in pilot phase until now.

    At first I thought, maybe this person just meant “LEED” and not LEED-ND, but no, you ask the question “Has the ratings system produced better development?” Well, Beata, no it hasn’t. Do you know why? Because it hasn’t been used yet.

    I really wonder why people bother writing articles on subjects on which there are literally thousands of more qualified commenters.

    All that said, I’m no apologist for LEED or CNU or USGBC. I think LEED-ND and the entire LEED program have many shortcomings. But we can’t talk about those, much less fix them, if our facts are so laughably and unforgivably wrong.

    Do some research before you write your next article, or at least stick to writing on subjects you actually know something about.

  2. Oh, and I almost forgot… “…as the program was launched only about a decade ago.”

    – Actually, LEED was launched about a decade ago. LEED-ND was just approved by CNU. The pilot program began last year… in 2008.

    And again, this is not a case of you mis-typing as you beg the question that with such history, why isn’t there a better record of impacting sprawl. So, you clearly either didn’t know or didn’t bother to figure out that LEED-ND is brand-spanking new.

    Wow! And the title… I somehow just noticed the “Expansion” word. Actually, approval was for making the pilot project an official certification system.

    Jeez. Just unbelievable.

  3. Jake,

    Thank you for the response. It is great to have community input on our blog posts for precisely this reason: so that proper clarifications can be made between any discrepancies in information, and, furthermore, to encourage our readers to seek out more information on a given topic. As with all blogs that act as informal, informational hubs on specific topics, the general public acts as a peer-review committee, which, more than anything, I take as a testament of the increased access to resources (never a pitfall, in my opinion). Unfortunately, because so much information is so readily available now on the internet, it has become increasingly simple to overlook an interesting new story or news piece. It is for this reason that many blogs exist – to relay stories, articles, and links to the readers, and not necessarily to serve as the authoritative voice on a particular topic (though, of course, many blogs are now taking on this role). Because of the informal nature of most blogging, the Crossroads contributors attempt to link to any original articles or entries as a means of directing our readers to more information on the subject.

    In direct response to your comment, it underscores the potential confusion that may arise with analyzing smart growth projects and efforts. With this topic, specifically, I committed an error in using ‘LEED-ND’ for when I meant to refer to the LEED program. For the purposes of clarity, when discussing Reid Ewing’s account, it is meant to refer to the LEED program, and his take on the pitfalls of the program. Now, taking into consideration the goals and purpose of the LEED program (the original program), the question, then, that I would like to address is how is (or will) the LEED-ND program measuring smart growth and sustainable development? What sort of metrics are being used in this program? And what can we learn from the 10-year-old LEED program?

    As you mentioned, the LEED-ND program (in its pilot stage) has only been in existence for about a year. Recently, favorable votes by four separate organizations will be turning it into an official certification program. With this news, what sort of short-term impacts will it have on new development? Will we be able to see any immediate results? For more information, I encourage you to visit the USGBC website on the topic [http://bit.ly/2cD0DW].

    Thank you again for your thoughtful response. I merely hope that my error did not cause too much confusion for the readers. I encourage everyone to follow the provided links to seek out more information on this topic.

  4. Actually, the LEED-ND pilot started in 2007 and had 238 projects participating.

  1. Pingback: LEED-ND Receives Expansion Approval, But Does it Have Shortcomings … :: L.E.E.D ND

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