Guide to the First Public Comment Draft of LEED-ND

Earlier this year, the LEED-ND core committee and technical advisory groups revised the rating system to reflect what they learned from real world pilot projects. The following summary highlights some of the recent changes to the rating system.

Overall Changes

Measuring Connectivity
Definitions of Adjacent, Previously Developed, and Infill Sites
Addition of Graphics

Additional Changes

Smart Location and Linkage

Smart Locations, P1
Wetland and Water Body Conservation, P4
Agricultural Land Conservation, P5
Housing and Jobs Proximity, C5

Neighborhood Pattern and Design

Walkable Streets, P1
Compact Development, P2
Connected and Open Community, P3
Walkable Streets, C1
Diversity of Uses, C3
Mixed-Income Diverse Communities, C4
Universal Accessibility, C11
Local Food Production, C13
Tree-Lined and Shaded Streets, C14
Neighborhood Schools, C15

Green Infrastructure and Buildings

Certified Green Building, P1
Stormwater Management, C7

Innovation and Design Process

LEED Accredited Professional, C2
Regional Priority Credit, RP C 1

Complete Rating System

Current Draft

Did we miss anything major?

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Nora Beck, nbeck {@} cnu.org

Measuring Connectivity

LEED-ND now measures connectivity by the number of intersections per square mile, minus the number of dead-end-serving intersections. Eligible intersections include:

  • Junctions of publicly-accessible streets open to motor vehicle movement.
  • Junctions between publicly-accessible streets and publicly-dedicated alley--not alley to alley junctions.
  • Junctions between publicly-accessible streets and off-street bicycle and multi-use paths, up to 10% of total intersections.
  • Multilegged junctions, like roundabouts, traffic circles, and plazas count as a single intersection, unless the space is larger than 1/2 acre--in which case the components are counted individually.

Areas excluded from the calculation include: waterbodies, parks larger than 1/2 acre, recreational facilities, public campuses, airports, rail yards, areas preserved by codified law or ND prerequisites, and land with unique topographic or geologic conditions that prevents development.

Connectivity is used internally and externally a number of times throughout the rating system:

  • Smart Location, SLL p1: Option 2 requires that the site be adjacent to an area with 150 intersections/sq. mi. The surrounding area is evaluated using a half circle with a radius centered on the midpoint of the adjacent boundary. The radius of the half circle must at least be 1/4-mile, or if the distance from the midpoint to the end of the adjacent boundary is longer, the radius must equal that length. If the project contains streets, the connectivity of the streets cannot be less than the surrounding area.
  • Preferred Locations, SLL c1: Projects can earn a number of points by achieving a combination of requirements. Option 2 awards points for the connectivity in the area in which the project is located. The area evaluated is all land within a 1-mile radius of the project boundary. Parks, protected lands, and water are not counted in the perimter area. Points are awarded as follows:
    • 400 or more intersections/sq. mi.: 5 points
    • 300 - 400 intersections/sq. mi.: 3 points
    • 200 - 300 intersections/sq. mi.: 1 point

  • Connected and Open Community, NPD p3: Projects with internal streets must have an internal connectivity of at least 150 intersections/sq. mi., see option 1. For projects without internal streets, the surrounding area, measured by a 1/4-mile buffer around the project boundary, must have at least 90 intersections/sq. mi., see option 2.
  • Street Network, NPD c6: In order to achieve this credit, projects must design 90% of any new cul-de-sacs with a pedestrian or bike-through connection, except where topography prohibits. Projects must also design through streets to enter the project at least every 400 feet, or at existing abutting street intervals, whichever distance is smaller; barring physical obstacles like prior platting, slopes, waterbodies, etc. Points are awarded based on the internal connectivity, or the connectivity within a 1/4-mile radius from the geographic center of the project; 300-400 intersections/sq. mi. equals 1 point, greater than 400 intersections/sq.mi. equals 2 points.

Definitions of Adjacent, Previously Developed, and Infill Sites

LEED-ND now defines adjacent, previously developed and infill sites using the following conditions:

  • Adjacent: a site having at least 25% of its perimeter bordering land that has been previously developed. For the purpose of this definition, a street or roadway does not constitute previously developed land. Any fraction of the perimeter that borders waterfront other than a stream is excluded from the calculation. Roadways do not count as previously developed land for purposes of this definition; instead, the status of the property on the other side of the road is considered.
  • Previously developed: a site having pre-existing paving, construction, or altered landscapes that would typically have required regulatory permitting to have been initiated. This does not apply to altered landscapes resulting from current or historical agricultural or forestry use, or use as preserved natural area. The date of previous development permit issuance constitutes the date of previous development.
  • Infill: a site that meets any of the following three conditions: 1) at least 75% of its perimeter borders sites have been previously developed; 2) the site, in combination with any set of adjoining parcels, forms an aggregate parcel whose perimeter is 75% bounded by previously developed sites; or 3) at least 75% of the lands within a 1/2-mile radius of the project perimeter are previously developed. For the purpose of this definition, a street does not constitute previously developed land; instead the status of property on the other side of the street is considered. Any fraction of the perimeter that borders waterfront other than a stream will be excluded from the calculation.

These definitions impact a large number of prerequisites and credits:

    Smart Location, SLL P1;
    Wetland and Waterbody Conservation, SLL P4;
    Agricultural Land Conservation, SLL P5;
    Floodplain Avoidance, SLL P6;
    Preferred Locations, SLL C1;
    Housing and Jobs Proximity, SLL C5;
    Steep Slope Protection, SLL C6; and
    Site Design for Habitat or Wetland Conservation, SLL C7.

Addition of Graphics

A limited number of graphics have been added to illustrate key principles. The following prerequisites and credits include the use of graphics:
    Smart Location, SLL P1;
    Agricultural Land Conservation, SLL P5;
    Floodplain Avoidance, SLL P6;
    Preferred Locations, SLL C1;
    Housing and Jobs Proximity, SLL C5;
    Walkable Streets, NPD P1;
    Connected and Open Community, NPD P3;
    Walkable Streets, NPD C1;
    Street Network, NPD C6;

Smart Location, SLL P 1

The goal of this prerequisite is to encourage development within and near existing communities to reduce vehicle trips and promote physical activity. In addition to infill sites, sites with adequate transit service, and sites with significant nearby assets, a new adjacency option has been added. This allows sites extending an existing grid that has a fair degree of connectivity already to meet this prerequisite. An adjacent site, with 25% of its perimeter bordering previously developed land, must have a pre-project connectivity of at least 150 intersections per square mile in the surrounding 1/4-mile area.

Wetland and Water Body Conservation, SLL P 4

This prerequisite now allows more opportunities for creating access to waterfronts and natural areas for people to enjoy. For all projects, unless protected by state or federal law, previously developed land is not considered wetlands, waterbodies, or 100-foot buffer land that must be protected for the purposes of this prerequisite. Minor improvements are now allowed within the 100-foot buffer and can include bicycle and pedestrian pathways, small clearings, and small structures not exceeding 500 sq. ft.

For projects with wetlands, waterbodies or 100-foot buffer areas, a specific percentage of land can be impacted based on the residential and non-residential density as long as one point is earned under Stormwater Management, GIB C7. At the high end of the scale, a project with a residential density greater than 30 dwelling units per acre (du/a) and a non-residential density greater than 1.5 FAR can impact up to 20% of the area in question. See pages 9-10.

Agricultural Land Conservation, SLL P 5

The intent of this prerequisite now emphasizes the importance of reducing the permanent loss of prime agricultural land, especially in places where such land is not abundant. In addition to the original options of locating on an infill site, transit-served sites, or within a transfer of development rights receiving area, an option has been added to locate the project on a site that contains no more than 25% prime soils, unique soils, or soils of state significance. For regions with more than 75% prime agricultural land, this prerequisite can be met if the project is located on an adjacent site. Updated definitions of infill sites, previously developed sites, and adjacent sites are used and are illustrated with graphics. See pages 11-13.

Housing and Jobs Proximity, SLL C 5

For projects with residential components, this credit requires that the residential square footage represent 30% of the project's total building square footage and that the project is designed and located in such a way that the geographic center is within a 1/2-mile walk distance to a specific number of pre-project full-time equivalent jobs. The specific number of jobs is determined by the number of dwelling units in the project, and must be equal to or greater than that number. A new and additional point is given if the project meets Option 2 of Mixed-Income Diverse Communities, NPD C4.

For infill projects with non-residential components, the non-residential component should equal at least 30% of the project's total building square footage and be located in such a way that the geographic center is within a 1/2-mile walk distance of an existing rail transit, ferry, or tram stop and within a 1/2-mile walk distance to a specific number of existing dwelling units. The specific number of existing dwelling units is based on the number of new jobs and must be equal to or greater than 50% of the number of new full-time equivalent jobs create by the project. Parking structures are not included in any of these calculations.

Walkable Streets, NPD P 1

Given the importance of walkable streets to the function and feel of great neighborhoods, a prerequisite was created in addition to the original credit. Overall, this gives greater weight for walkable streets within the entire rating system. The prerequisite requires principal building entries to face public spaces like streets and plazas-not parking lots, minimum building-height-to-street-width-ratios of 1:3, continuous sidewalks on both sides of 90% of the streets within a project, and makes exemptions for designated historic districts.

Compact Development, NPD P 2

Recognizing the inherent connection between density and transit performance, the density threshold for projects meeting specific transit service levels was bumped up to 12 du/a and 0.80 FAR. For all other projects, the density minimum remains at 7 du/a and 0.50 FAR.

Connected and Open Community, NPD P 3

The requirements for meeting this prerequisite were expanded beyond the exclusion of gated communities to requiring specific levels of street connectivity. All projects must have at least one through-street intersecting the project boundary every 800 feet, or existing abutting street intervals, whichever is less. Non-motorized rights-of-way can be included here too, but can count for no more than 10% of the total.

Projects with internal streets must have an internal connectivity of at least 150 intersections/sq. mi. For projects without internal streets, the surrounding area, measured by a 1/4-mile buffer around the project boundary, must have at least 90 intersections/sq. mi., see option 2.

Walkable Streets, NPD C 1

The credit for walkable streets gives an opportunity for New Urbanists to excel, awarding points based on the number of strategies achieved. Several strategies were pulled out as separate prerequisites and credits, see Walkable Streets, NPD P1 and the Tree-Lined and Shaded Streets, NPD C14. The remaining 15 strategies are now worth more and the target numbers are higher, see page 39.

Diversity of Uses, NPD C 3

In order to satisfy this credit, the project must have a residential component that constitutes at least 25% of the project's total building square footage, residents of the dwelling units should be within a 1/2-mile walk distance of a number of diverse uses and should not have to cross a street with speed limits greater than 25 mph without signals or stops signs at crosswalks. The number of points is determined on a sliding scale based on the number of uses--with at least one from each category: retail, services, civic-and occupancy percentages, see page 45. The list of diverse uses can be found on page 93.

The credit now places a distinction on neighborhood-scale projects and regional-scale retail centers. Neighborhood-scale projects are defined as projects with a minimum of 40 acres and regional-scale retail centers are defined as those with substantial retail uses. In order to satisfy the credit, diverse uses must be clustered in the neighborhood center and the principle entries must be a 300-foot or 400-foot walk distance from a single common point. A regional-scale retail center, projects with 150,000 square feet of retail must also earn a minimum of one point for Reduced Automobile Dependence, SLL C 3.

Mixed-Income Diverse Communities, NPD C 4

This credit deepens the incentives for architecturally and socially diverse neighborhoods. Criteria for measuring housing type diversity have been clarified. Up to three new points are now available for inclusion of affordable housing. Affordable housing may include rental or for-sale units, with the percentages of affordable units required based on pricing relative to Area Median Income (AMI). One additional point available to projects that have high levels of housing type diversity AND affordability.

Universal Accessibility, NPD C 11

Textual changes clarify the application of this credit, which is intended to make the public and private components of a project accessible to a wide spectrum of users and residents, regardless of ability. The number of universally accessible units is enhanced from 20% to a minimum of 20%.

Local Food Production, NPD C 13

Public health benefits of local food production are now recognized in the intent of this credit. Community garden space within 1/4-mile walk of the project may now satisfy the community garden option, provided that all other option requirements are met. Previously this credit could be achieved by locating the project near an existing farmers market. Planned farmers markets within the project, or within a 1/4-mile walk of the project boundary are now also eligible to satisfy this option.

Tree-Lined and Shaded Streets, NPD C 14

This new credit recognizes the numerous benefits of street trees, from improving walkability and reducing traffic speeds, to buffering building temperatures and improving air quality. One point is awarded for providing street trees along 70% of both sides of project streets, with a minimum of 40' intervals between trees. An additional point is awarded if shade coverage on sidewalks will reach 40% within five years of landscape installation. This point is judged in the context of the pedestrian environment, but it can be seen more broadly as encouraging a well-established tree population, and with it the sense of well established community that often marks New Urbanist (and older residential) neighborhoods.

Neighborhood Schools, NPD C 15

Addressing community engagement and the numerous childhood health problems related to lack of physical activity, this new credit awards one point to projects in which 50% of residential units are within 1/2-mile walk of the entrance to a planned or existing school. This credit requires that routes to school within the project include pedestrian, bike and traffic calming features, while new schools within the project must provide unimpeded access to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Certified Green Building, GIB P 1

This is a new prerequisite to encourage the design, construction, or retrofit of buildings to utilize green building practices. All LEED-ND projects must have at least one certified green building, either through one of USGBC rating systems or through an alternative system with third party certification.

Stormwater Management, GIB C 7

Development and disturbance of soils can lead to increased runoff, flooding, and pollution, while simultaneously preventing replenishment of underground aquifers. This credit addresses these problems by awarding points to projects that include a stormwater management plan. New language explains that a stormwater management plan must address water and pollutant runoff from new and existing surfaces, and outline Best Management Practices (such as permeable pavements, rain gardens, vegetated swales, sand filters, etc.,) that will be implemented. One point is awarded to projects which retain 80% of storm event precipitation; four points are awarded to projects which retain 95%. Previously this credit awarded points based on the number of inches of stormwater retained. A project that earns at least one point for stormwater retention may now earn additional points by being transit ready, or by using a previously developed site, or a brownfield site with contaminated soils.

LEED Accredited Professional, IDP C2

There are three ways to satisfy this credit--a principal member of the project design team shall either be a LEED Accredited Professional as determined by USGBC, credentialed as determined by the NRDC in consultation with Smart Growth America, or credentialed with regard to new urbanism as determined by CNU. A USGBC LEED AP exam track for professionals wanting to specialize in LEED-ND will be available in early 2010.

Regional Priority Credit, RP C 1

US Green Building Council regional councils and chapters, in consultation with CNU chapters and membership, are currently developing regional priorities. This new credit allows projects to earn one point each for up to four of six regional priorities it fulfills.