Thursday, May 16, 2013

Next Step in LEED Certification Designates Whole Neighborhoods

Uptown Circle, LEED-ND neighborhood in Normal, Illinois
Hunter Communications recommended reading from:
Midwest Energy News

Link to article:
Next big thing for LEED planning?  Sustainable neighborhoods

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED for short, has been certifying "green buildings" for sustainable design and technological innovation in energy production and use for years.  Now, new projects in the Midwest are among those to receive the new LEED-ND certification for development of entire neighborhoods with energy-saving technologies.

Excerpt: "One of the first sustainably certified neighborhoods in the country turns out to have been at one time one of the poorest. Once home to a notorious housing project, Renaissance Place in St. Louis today boasts a mix of subsidized and market-rate housing units.

William Carson, director of sustainability for McCormack Baron Salazar, said Renaissance Place was funded largely by Hope VI money from Housing and Urban Development and a complex mix of state, local and philanthropic funding. Even though the company largely works in distressed neighborhoods it always designs and builds with sustainability in mind, he said.

'The addition of green amenities of energy and water savings really makes sense in low income communities where people simply don’t have additional resources to waste,' Carson said. 'On top of that our public partners like them because when you have an operating subsidy from a public authority and federal government they want to keep their expenses flat. So building green makes sense for the long-term operation.'

After receiving LEED-ND certification Carson’s organization added solar panels and storm water retention to Renaissance Place because, again, they end up saving money for residents. Those features are now common in all the firm’s LEED-ND projects.

If Renaissance Place has been good for residents it also has been good for business, helping McCormack Baron Salazar win work in LEED-ND projects in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tulsa, Sacramento and Pittsburgh.

Normal, Illinois, the home of State Farm Insurance and Illinois State University, generally lives up to its name. “Normal is not some flaming liberal town,” said Mercy Davison, Normal’s town planner.

'We always made the argument this makes sense not because it’s the right thing with a capital R but because it makes sense in dollars. It helps us retain people, it’s good for our quality of life.'

Normal’s love of LEED began in 2002 when the city council required public and private buildings in Uptown to be LEED certified. The first to pass muster was a children’s museum, the second a transportation hub combined with a new city hall, the third a hotel. A residential building sited for a third parcel that eventually will be constructed by a private developer will have to meet LEED standards.

Doug Farr, of Farr Associates, worked on Uptown Normal and subsequently has helped plan more than a half dozen other LEED-ND projects.

'Uptown Circle was a bigger deal in that community than any other project we worked on — it was their downtown, their first go at urban redevelopment, sustainability and it involved multiple mayoral terms and public financing,' he said. 'It was pretty high-stakes, played out in public and the press.'

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