Comments will build on recent LEED-ND improvements
CNU calls on new urbanists to review and comment — by January 5 — on the latest draft of the rating system. As the nation’s first rating system assessing green neighborhood development approaches completion, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and its LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) project partners are opening the system up for public comment. Members of the partner organizations, which include the United States Green Building Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council along with CNU, are encouraged to send comments between now and the close of the public comment period on January 5, 2009. Since CNU is a smaller organization than the others, participation by members is especially important to ensure that new urbanists’ perspectives continue to be strongly represented in the ratings system. “We now ask new urbanists to review this work to help ensure that the ratings system follows the principles outlined in the Charter and reflect the best practices within the movement,” says Susan Mudd, CNU board member and LEED-ND Core Committee vice-chair. After comments are evaluated by the core committee and any significant resulting changes are subject to a second comment period, the final rating system is expected to be balloted by CNU members in spring 2009 and is predicted to launch in mid-2009. Earlier this year, the core committee and technical advisory groups revised the rating system to reflect what they learned from real world pilot projects. “Since we will not have another opportunity to test the recent changes against projects, it is essential that new urbanists comment on the current draft and continue to improve on our work,” explains Victor Dover, CNU board member and fellow LEED-ND Core Committee member. Calling on members “CNU relies on the expertise of its members to advance the best practice of New Urbanism,” says CNU President John Norquist. “This public comment period is one of those opportunities and we call on our members to contribute.” USGBC will be hosting the online comment form on its website. After a simple sign-in, members of the public can comment on specific prerequisites and credits. The core committee will be reviewing all comments submitted — the more targeted and concise the recommendation, the better. The following headings highlight some of the sections with recent improvements in the prerequisites that determine which projects are eligible for LEED-ND consideration and which are disqualified. For more detailed information on these qualifiers and the more numerous credits that determine if project performance rises to the level of certification, go to CNU’s LEED-ND initiative page at cnu.org/leednd. Walkable Streets Neighborhood Pattern & Design Category, Prerequisite 1 and Credit 1. Given the importance of walkable streets to the function and feel of great neighborhoods, the core committee created this prerequisite to complement the original credit. Overall, this change gives greater weight to 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 percent of the streets within a project; and makes exemptions for designated historic districts. The separate credit for walkable streets gives an opportunity for new ubanists to excel, awarding points based on the number of strategies achieved. Core committee member Victor Dover says this significant recent improvement “strengthens the tie between the Charter, CNU best practices, and LEED-ND.” Compact Development Neighborhood Pattern & Design category, Prerequisite 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 dwelling units per acre (du/a) and 0.80 floor-area-ratio (FAR). For all other projects, the density minimum remains at 7 du/a and 0.50 FAR. Smart Location Smart Location & Linkage category, Prerequisite 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. It allows projects to meet this prerequisite if they extend an existing grid with a sufficient degree of current connectivity. An adjacent site, with 25 percent of its perimeter bordering previously developed land, must have a pre-project connectivity level of at least 150 intersections per square mile in the surrounding quarter mile area. Based on feedback from new urbanists, connectivity is now measured by intersection density instead of centerline mile density. Wetland and Water Body Conservation Smart Location & Linkage category, Prerequisite 4. This prerequisite now allows more opportunities for creating access to waterfronts and natural areas for people to enjoy. “Without these changes, it would have been much more difficult to retrofit sprawl,” says John Norquist. 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. At the high end of the scale, a project with a residential density greater than 30 du/a and a nonresidential density greater than 1.5 FAR can impact up to 20 percent of the area in question. Certified Green Building Green Infrastructure & Buildings category, Prerequisite 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 the USGBC rating systems or through an alternative system with third-party certification.