LEED-ND Dilemma

burlesona's picture

Hi everyone,

I'm working on a project in the Houston region, and we're interested in going for LEED-ND certification. I've run into a problem, however, and I was wondering if anyone had constructive thoughts on what we might be able to do about it. We're land planners primarily, and haven't done any LEED work in the past.

The image shown is our site plan. To the west and south we're closed in by a creek that's managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. To the north we're closed in by an Airport, and to the east we're closed in by a freeway that the state will not let us cross or access.

However, our site has about 1000 acres of previous prison land that is now cleared, no floodplains, and is directly contiguous to the existing city. The site is, in fact, the only large parcel remaining adjacent to the existing town of about 35,000. This is a town outside of Houston that has experienced steady growth due to the presence of strong local industries.

Everything else surrounding the town is thick woodlands and wetlands.

So, for this town to grow, we're on the very best site. However, we're land locked and have only got three realistic opportunities to connect the project to the outside (one bridge in the west, one freeway connection in the west, and one connection to the airport in the north.

Because we're trapped on an island, we've deliberately designed the project to feature a mix of uses with a heavy emphasis on employment centers. We've got space for a future elementary and middle school, multiple neighborhood retail centers, walkable streets, and a mix of housing prices and sizes (including multi-family). We've got commercial office and light industrial space planned. There's an airport overlay where we can't build residential, that space is a mix of open-space and light industrial serving the airport.

All in all I think we've got the best possible plan to accomodate the next 5,000 or so people who move to this community, but this area will essentially be a semi-autonomous village.

We can meet or exceed almost all the LEED-ND requirements, except for Prerequisite 1, which requires ROW connections to the outside every 800 feet. It isn't physically possible to do that.

Do you all have any thoughts or experience that could help us? Our client is really determined to develop a top-quality, environmentally responsible project, and it seems to me that there should be some way to take the circumstances into consideration with regards to the linkage requirement. I'd really appreciate any help or insight anyone can offer!

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paytonc's picture

water boundaries

Are you sure about that? If you're going under the "infill sites" compliance path, you can exempt out the project perimeter that you physically can't access. The phrase is "exemptions to this requirement found in NPDp3," which are found on p. 32: "This does not apply to portions of the boundary where connections cannot be made because of physical obstacles." Wetlands, limited-access highways, and "prior improvements" (the airport in your case) would constitute acceptable physical obstacles, in my opinion (and hopefully in USGBC/LEED's opinion).

There's one pilot project I remember which we were able to get in which is surrounded on three sides by water and on the fourth by a bridge ramp. It ended up qualifying under the transit compliance path of SLLp1, but in the end I think it also qualified under the "infill site" compliance path.

That said, I'd encourage you to explore whatever additional connections might be at all possible (footbridges?), since connectivity is a Good Thing.

burlesona's picture

However...

I agree with your observation, except that SLL Prerequsite 1 Option 2 specifically states:

"Exemptions to this requirement found in NPDp3: Connected and Open Community do not apply to this option."

We are going to connect in every way that we possibly can, we're going to have a linear bikeway along the creek which will connect to the city's planned bikeway along the creek through the rest of the city.

We're also trying hard to get pedestrian bridges over the creek, but most of the other side of the creek is people's back yards.

So, it's a tricky spot.

We also would easily comply with Option 4 - community assets within walking distance, if they would allow us to count the assets that we build. I think that's not their intent, however.

paytonc's picture

Nope.

Okay, I re-read that. (It should have an "or" -- you can apply one paragraph or the other.) Anyhow, I found your site in Brazoria County and I can't find any way of getting it past SLLp1 besides buying transit service. You are allowed to do that, provided it meets the requirements set forth in compliance path 3.

For compliance path 4, no, you're not allowed to count assets within the development. You could conceivably build something outside the development and then come back and count it, but they do have to be existing at the time of the application.

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