South Chicago LEED ND InitiativeIs sustainability measurable?

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) certainly thinks so, and they are working hard to provide professionals working within the development community a framework to bring sustainability to the neighborhood level.

The USGBC has been using its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System since 1998 to provide “building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.” In 2007, the USGBC partnered with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) to adapt the LEED system for use by urban planners, developers, and architects working on larger scale projects.  The result of their efforts was LEED for Neighborhood Development, “a national set of standards for neighborhood location and design based on the combined principles of smart growth, new urbanism, and green building.”

Like other LEED rating systems, LEED for Neighborhood Design promotes the use of sustainable concepts in neighborhood developments by requiring projects to adhere to a specific set of prerequisites and achieving a certain point total.  Points can be acquired by earning “credits,” a variety of optional development practices aimed at increasing the sustainability of a project.  Depending on the number of points obtained, a project can be deemed LEED Certified (40-49 points), LEED Silver (50-59 points), LEED Gold (60-79 points), or LEED Platinum (80-106 points).

LEED for Neighborhood Development evaluates projects based on the use of sustainable practices in four different categories:

  1. Smart Location and Linkage (30 possible points);
  2. Neighborhood Pattern and Design (39 possible points);
  3. Green Construction and Technology (31 possible points);
  4. And Innovation and Design Process (6 possible points).

The LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot Program opened in July 2007 with 238 projects participating, including 2 in Chicago.  One of these projects, the South Chicago LEED ND Initiative, is a plan that aspires to create a dynamic, sustainable, mixed-use community on a 1,140 acre site along Chicago’s lake shore, formerly the location of a US Steel manufacturing plant. “The master plan developed includes the requirement of LEED silver buildings for all infill and new development,” as well as the creation of a 100 acre lakefront park.

Do you think that the LEED for Neighborhood Design rating system is a valuable tool for increasing sustainable practices in large scale projects?

Credits: Image by Sean Glowacz.  Data linked to sources.