Late last week, you may have heard, the USGBC, NRDC, and CNU officially launched LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND).  The pilot program opened in July 2007 with about 240 participating projects.  Now, with the launch, project teams around the world can register online and get going. 

There's no real limit to the size of a LEED-ND project, but green developments need to have at least one certified green building.  The USGBC advises that the rating system works best when a project has at least two buildings and less than 320 acres of space. 

LEED-ND has three stages of certification — conditionally approved plan, pre-certified plan, and certified neighborhood development — which correspond to the typical development process.  Within the rating system there are five credit categories: smart location and linkage, neighborhood pattern and design, green infrastructure and buildings, innovation and design process, and regional priority credits.  

In short, the focus of LEED-ND is on neighborhood design, location, and creating developments where jobs and services can be accessed by foot or public transit.  Projects that have received or are seeking LEED-ND certification include Dockside Green, Celadon, and Melrose Commons.

Speaking about the launch of LEED-ND, Kaid Benfield, Director of the Smart Growth Program at the NRDC, said, "Half of the buildings we will have in 25 years are not yet on the ground … where we put them is even more important to the environment than how we build them,” according to a press release.

In other words, development is inevitable, but it needs to be done right. 

LEED critics should feel good about this news because LEED-ND takes direct aim at sprawl — even green buildings in sprawl locations (to a certain extent).  LEED-ND blends principles of smart growth, new urbanism, and green building in one system and recognizes these green developments with certification. 

Photo credit: Dockside Green by Christopher Ruffell.