Dec 16 2010

LEED for Neighborhood Development

LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND for short) is another in a series of rating systems published by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) that encourages green building and development. LEED ND is for new developments, primarily residential communities that when employed, requires such communities to incorporate sustainable and green building strategies for the entire community. This program is entirely voluntary, and it promotes many good ideas such as storm water management, reduction of impervious surfaces, preservation of existing trees and natural areas, solar orientation, walkability, multi-modal transporation, higher density and mixed uses. All this is good.

As with all of the USGBC rating systems, certain prerequisites have to be met, and this is where I start to have issues with LEED-ND in specific. The one prerequisite that I have the biggest issue with is the requirement that the minimum density be 7 units per acre. The theory behind this is that 7 units per acre is really the threshold where a mass transit system becomes feasible. That is all well and good. However, what this does, is it relegates this rating system to larger cities that not only have a mass transit system, but more importantly, where the market will support this kind of density. 7 units per acre is typically the lower end for townhome communities, and is extremely dense for single family detached homes. Don’t get me wrong, I support higher density, but also realize it isn’t for everyone.

But what really gets me, is there are thousands of smaller towns and communities across the country that the market simply can’t support this kind of density for anything more than a building or two. LEED ND therefor totally ignores these communities. I think this is wrong, we should encourage all communities to incorporate sustainable practices and green developments, not just large cities. Of course, this doesn’t prevent sustainable projects from being developed in any town or city, but it does prevent the national recognition that projects in big cities can achieve.

May 20 2009

Midori Approval

Tonight we obtained Planning Commission approval for the Midori project I have been working on for awhile. The next step is County Commissioners. This project still continues to generate solid interest in the lots and homes, and stands a good chance of being sold out by ground breaking! Here is the current site plan. For more information on this sustainable project, visit

Feb 5 2008

LEED for New Development

Here we go! We now have a residential project where the client wants to follow the LEED ND checklist as much as possible in the hopes that the development may become LEED certified when the LEED ND checklist comes online in 2009. We are just starting the project, so I am not certain yet what all we will be doing. It is a smaller development, only 28 homes, but that size should be good for testing this. Over the next few days we will develop concept plans and review the LEED ND checklist in more detail and see what we can and cannot do. As part of this process, we will also be evaluating the market feasibility of LEED ND.

Another component of this that we will be studying is which green home building tool that will be implemented along with the development. This might be following the built green program, energy star, and LEED for New Homes. Whether a specific program will be implemented, or wheaher that gets left up to each builder will be decided at a later date.

Jan 2 2008

Home Building Green vs LEED

Recently a friend of mine and I were discussing what I was going to do with my LEED accreditation and discussing LEED in general. I actually have thought about this, and what I would like to do is specialize in LEED for New Developments, as well as New Home Construction. This will be in addition to what we do for commercial projects, but I want to specialize in the residential end.

With new development, particularly residential neighborhoods, there are very few standards for green development, other than doing what is right to minimize the impacts of development and creating them to be more sustainable than the current development patterns. In this respect, I think LEED-ND will be very beneficial and I want to be in the forefront of this. Convincing developers to go this route will not be easy, and it will also require municipalities, utility providers, and contractors to all think differently. One of the first projects I want to test with this will be own development. Right now, LEED-ND is in the pilot process, and will not be brought online until early 2009, so we will follow the pilot guidelines and hopefully become certified as we go to construction.

LEED for homes is an entirely different matter. There are many green building standards for residential construction. Locally, we have the Built Green program administered by the Metro Denver HBA, Energystar, the upcoming ANSI national standards, and some others. All are good programs with varying degrees of market acceptance. When I was building several years ago, I followed the Built Green program, and even listed some of the homes. At the time, that program was unknown in Fort Collins and it had little market viability.

Both the Built Green and Energy Star programs focus more on the building, mostly favoring energy and water consumption. I think where LEED might be different is that it looks at a more comprehensive picture from site development all the way through indoor air quality. It is also designed to dovetail with LEED-ND. With our development, we will also require the builders to follow some kind of green standard. Whether we want to dictate which standard, or allow flexibility we will have to decide. Of the measures that we will have to evaluate will be market acceptance of the various standards, and the cost of implementing those standards. LEED in particular can be quite expensive. Just the fees paid to USGBC and to have a third party rater involved can run from $3-7,000 per home depending upon the level of certification (taken from Green Builder magazine, July 2007). This is pretty steep for the typical home where every dollar counts for affordability and buyers compare prices per square foot more than features. That being said, there could be some economy of scale achieved if a builder has stock plans that are repeated several times, or uses the same materials and specs from home to home. This would in theory reduce the paperwork that is incurred. I don’t know if this is possible, but will look into it further. If USGBC wants LEED to be a viable standard for home building, they will have to address the cost issues.