With concurrent celebrations in Washington, DC, and Chicago, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Congress for the New Urbanism (NCU) officially launched the LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) rating system. It is the seventh LEED rating system released by USGBC and the first to address neighborhood design.

Recognizing developments and neighborhoods rather than individual buildings, LEED-ND seeks to highlight projects that perform well in terms of smart growth, urbanism, and green building. It promotes smart site selection that reduces vehicle miles traveled and promotes developments that are accessible by foot or public transit. All LEED-ND projects are required to have at least one certified green building.

“Half of the buildings we will have in 25 years are not yet on the ground,” says Kaid Benfield, director of the smart growth program at NRDC. “Where we put them is even more important to the environment than how we build them, and NRDC is proud to stand alongside our partners with a system that helps guide them to the right places while avoiding the wrong ones.” In establishing LEED-ND, NRDC also sought input from Smart Growth America, a national coalition of organizations working for better communities.

“LEED for Neighborhood Development contains the components for compact and complete neighborhoods. With walkable streets, appropriately scaled schools, and a mix of amenities close by, residents can lower their environmental impact while improving their quality of life,” says John Norquist, president and CEO of CNU.

The USGBC opened a pilot program for the rating system in July 2007 and developments recognized under the rating system range from one-quarter acre in size to 1,000 acres, and include whole neighborhoods, portions of neighborhoods, and multiple neighborhoods. Unlike other LEED rating systems, projects are measured by acreage, not square footage.

The following credit categories comprise LEED-ND and points are awarded on a total 110-point scale:

  • Smart Location and Linkage, which addresses location, transportation alternatives, and sensitive land preservation;

  • Neighborhood Pattern and Design, emphasizing healthy, walkable, and mixed-use communities;

  • Green Infrastructure and Buildings, promoting buildings and infrastructure that reduce energy and water use, as well as promoting more sustainable use of materials, reuse of existing and historic structures, and other sustainable best practices;

  • Innovation and Design Processes, recognizing exemplary and innovative performance; and

  • Regional Priority, encouraging projects to focus on credits of significance to a project's local environment.

LEED-ND differs from other LEED rating systems in that it comprises three stages of certification that are tied to the real estate development process. Stage 1 certifies projects that have a conditionally approved plan. This stage is envisioned to help projects get support from local governments and communities. Stage 2 precertifies a LEED-ND plan and is applicable for fully entitled projects or projects under construction. This stage is meant to help projects secure financing, expedited permitting, and/or attract tenants. Stage 3 recognizes certified neighborhood developments that have achieved all of the prerequisites and credits attempted.

In conjunction with the new rating system, USGBC also is launching a LEED Accredited Professional Neighborhood Development (AP ND) credential. It will launch this spring.

For more information on the new rating system, individual pilot projects, and the LEED AP ND accreditation, visit usgbc.org.