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Green Neighborhoods

By Buck Abbey, ASLA

Walkable Streets in Weston, Florida.

Leafy green, walkable, compact, transit-oriented neighborhoods have always been a priority of Landscape Architects since Olmsted designed Riverside in the Chicago area in the mid nineteenth century. Now three green organizations have been working for months to develop a design and performance rating system that will certify and reward designed communities with a LEED Certification.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) formulating a LEED rating system that can be used by progressive design professionals, builders, developers, and the environmental community to seek LEED Certification for neighborhood developments.

The preliminary LEED-ND standards have just been released for peer review and have been formulated based upon the combined principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building. The purpose of this program is to establish standards for assessing and rewarding environmentally superior development practices within the rating framework of the LEED(R) (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System mentioned in this column in the LASN Vol. 21, Number 8, August 2005.

A shade dappled neighborhood

There are six sections to the draft certification program that are now up for discussion. They address general information, location, environmental preservation, connected neighborhoods, resource efficiency and accredited professionals. Of particular interest to Landscape Architects are proposed rating standards that address stormwater efficiency, parkland preservation, and site design to conserve habitat. Other credits that are pertaining to landscape architecture includes the minimization of site disturbance through site design (LID), reduction in stormwater run off, gray water reuse and walkable streets. No mention is made in the rating system of the use of native or ornamental plant material, earth grading or site amenities to shape neighborhood design. These appear to be a great deficiency and are areas of great concern to Landscape Architects and have not been included in the preparation of these new standards.

The LEED-ND Core Committee consists of fifteen members who have developed the draft and the rating system. A corresponding committee as mentioned in the August issue of LASN is actively reviewing the draft. They need your comments and thoughts, especially in regard to the landscape architecture sections of the standards. Visit the LEED-ND web site at There will be instruction there to tell you how to get your comments and suggestions to the LEED committee.

After the comment period has expired, the USGBC will post a summary document listing comments received as well as the committee response to them. The comments made during this period will assist the LEED committee in creating a pilot program that can be tested before the rating is released for use. This Pilot Rating System will then be tested with a limited number of projects. The LEED-ND committee will then use the results of the pilot program to produce a final draft of the LEED-ND Rating System, which will then be posted for two public comment periods before it is placed up for a vote. Send in your comments now.

D.G. "Buck" Abbey, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University, is LASN's Associate Editor for Legislation.

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June 15, 2019, 10:26 pm PDT

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