Kaid Benfield Archive


Using LEED-ND as a zoning & planning tool

Kaid Benfield

Posted August 26, 2010 at 1:00PM

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In our last post, we went into the details of LEED for Neighborhood Development a bit with a video showing how the system works, step by step.  That post featured a video by my friend Eliot Allen, who has been involved with the rating system as long as I have.  Today's post features a 10-minute, step-by-step companion video, this time on how a municipality might use the system to assist planning and zoning. 

Eliot uses the example of a developing suburb.  In particular, if one begins by identifying land that is available for development or redevelopment within a jurisdiction, one can use the system's location criteria to determine which of those available parcels would be considered "smart" under LEED-ND's criteria, and move to plan and zone them accordingly.  One can also determine how development might be planned and zoned in surrounding areas in order to increase the range of available parcels in the community that will be eligible.  Those of us who designed the system believe that the criteria will ensure with a high degree of confidence that eligible areas will permit good environmental performance for new development or redevelopment.

Here's the video: 


Architects and planners involved in suburban development frequently point out to me examples of good suburban sites that fail to qualify under LEED-ND's location crieria.  That is sometimes true but, in designing a system to reward environmental performance, we had to design criteria that would not necessarily allow all good sites but that by their nature would identify sites where criteria yield a high degree of confidence in fostering superior performance.  There's a difference.  That leaves out some sites whose characteristics are more situational and that are difficult to describe with precise criteria that do not also allow bad sites in. 

The system errs on the side of keeping regional footprints small and connected, as it should.  It will improve over time, with experience, but I think it's a terrific start, and a good new asset for governments to use in updating planning criteria to identify and zone the best sites, environmentally, for growth and development.