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?