As some of you may know, I was studying for the LEED AP Neighborhood Development (ND) exam back in May 2013. I crammed for about three weeks in between spring and summer classes and took the exam one week into the summer semester. Ultimately, I fell one point short of the credential, with a score of 169 out of 200. A score of 170 is required to attain any credential from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
Now that I have finished school, I am going after the LEED AP ND credential again – and I want to share my entire studying experience with you. As I make my way through the reference guide cover to cover, I will be posting what I learn about the specific credits and the overall rating system. I will try to include any version 4 updates as I go, as version 4 exams will be deployed in spring 2014. Feel free to read for pleasure or study along, and please share any thoughts. With that said, let’s begin.
The Case for Green Neighborhoods
According to USGBC estimates, land in the United States is currently being developed at three times the rate of population growth. Given this rate of development, the Urban Land Institute estimates that two-thirds of developed land in 2050 will be built between now and then. With stats like these, it is no wonder smart neighborhood development (and re-development) is a hot environmental topic.
During the second half of the 20th century, and until now, land development could be summarized in two words: sprawl and automobiles. More and more land was being cleared, fragmented, and developed, only to then be interconnected by fossil fuel-burning vehicles. It became clear long ago this approach was as inefficient as it was unsustainable.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), transportation accounts for about one-third of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, most of which is from personal vehicles. Emissions from fossil fuel-burning vehicles releases air pollutants that harm humans and the environment. In addition, neighborhoods designed around the automobile are not pedestrian-friendly, endanger habitats and the species living there, and reduce the amount of fertile land for food production.
A LEED certified neighborhood, on the other hand, consists of housing in closer proximity to jobs, minimizing vehicle miles traveled and air pollution. These neighborhoods also encourage active lifestyles and the use of public transportation for everyday purposes. But it’s not just the layout of the neighborhood that’s smart. The buildings themselves are more energy and water efficient and overall less resource intensive.
Keep in mind that this rating system isn’t just about preserving natural resources and protecting the environment. It is also about the user experience and improving the quality of life for people. The character of these neighborhoods can improve your mental well-being. Diverse housing options allow people from all demographics to become a community member. Historic places and public open spaces are abundant. The social benefits are just as important as the environmental benefits in the LEED ND rating system.
Check back soon for my next post on a quick background of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system.