Suburban Life with a Green Twist

Suburban Life with a Green Twist

I grew up in suburbia, when the suburbs meant dense housing areas with schools centrally located – and little else. We didn’t have a grocery story nearby or movie theatres to walk-to.  The obligatory car ride was still a central part of our lives. Fast forward to today’s world and you’ll find the concept of LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND), where the use of smart building principals includes closely connected neighborhoods with ready access to all your needs, based on green building design and infrastructure. These neighborhoods may also be in the city, adjacent to the city or in the far off suburbs, as well.

LEED for Neighborhood Development

LEED-ND, co-developed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Congress of the New Urbanism and the U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC), was created to address the need for new design in neighborhood development; less traffic, more green spaces, and convenient walking and/or public transportation access to all the basic conveniences like restaurants, grocery stores and more.

In short, we are seeing the development of mini-green cities, not just because of the access to necessities and the green space – but because of the LEED standards in building and conservation as well.  These Green developments also encourage the renovation of historical buildings and respect those existing elements that have been woven into the very fabric of the community like parks and recreational areas.

Requirements for LEED-ND development

As outlined in A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development, LEED-ND requirements include:

  • Smart Location: defined as one that uses land efficiently and preserves open space, ecological areas and agricultural land around cities. In addition, these smart locations bring all your prime needs together in close proximity; housing, work, stores and public spaces.
  • Design with Nature: when choosing a location, builders must be careful to protect the local environment, not only preventing construction on wetlands, floodplains, or agricultural land, but going one step further – restoring and conserving these areas and limiting the impact of any construction on adjacent land sites.
  • Connected Neighborhoods: means designing localities to include appropriate street connections and pathways to surrounding areas, thus helping to promote walking to nearby locations.  This means changing from the old concept of cul-de-sacs, long blocks and numerous dead-ends that go nowhere and literally prohibit forward movement – to encouraging physical activity through proper planning.
  • Public Transit:  creating what is referred to as a transit-oriented development by locating housing and jobs near public transit, making it easier for people to choose public transportation. This in turn helps decrease greenhouse gas emissions, encourages user support of the public transit system(s) and reduces the need for ugly parking lots – space that could be used for something far more interesting – like green space!

Neighborhoods in Development

The USGBC Neighborhood Project Directory follows multiple projects including Candlestick Point in San Francisco; once a US Navy shipyard and home to the San Francisco 49ers stadium. Plans for the 775 developable acres here include: entitlements for 12,000 homes; 326 acres of parks and open space; 3,150,000 square feet of R&D/office space; 885,000 square feet of retail; 100,000 square feet of community facilities and a 10,000 seat performance venue. The project’s commitments to green include:

  • Proposed energy savings that are 15% greater than the 2008 Title 24 requirements
  • Installation of Energy Star appliances in all housing
  • Solar-ready rooftops
  • Use of solar energy and LED street lights

In addition, ‘purple piping’ throughout will provide reclaimed water for irrigation use.  A unique underground automatic waste collection system under discussion is yet another innovative attempt to reduce traffic and improve efficiencies by eliminating garbage truck traffic and emissions.

Check back regularly to the USGBC site to see the neighborhood design progress being made around the world. Any Green Neighborhoods in YOUR neck of the woods?

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Wen-D Kersten

Director of Marketing at GreenLeaf Media Group
Wen-D Kersten is the editor and contributor for EcoVision SLC as well as a number of other energy and sustainability sites. She is a green enthusiast with over 15 years of marketing experience, and a background in film and video production.

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