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Taking a Hard Look at the New LEED for Neighborhood Development Standard

This month’s Gotham Gazette features a fascinating article by Tom Angotti that explores the new LEED for Neighborhood Development standard (“LEED-ND”). In addition to highlighting the relatively low number of LEED-certified buildings in New York City (of the fifteen certified buildings within the five boroughs, ten are in Manhattan, and three of these belong to public agencies), Angotti explores the relationship between individual projects and the neighborhoods around them. (Full disclosure: Dr. Angotti was one of my favorite grad school planning professors).

While he applauds the thinking behind developing LEED-ND certification, Angotti suggests that the attempt to create a green neighborhood seal of approval may add up to nothing more than a self-promotional tool employed by developers. He also suggests that the criteria for awarding points within the system doesn’t work as well in New York City, given that we already have a far-reaching public transportation system and that many LEED-certified developments are populated primarily by higher-income folks.

He turns a critical eye to three of the eight pilot projects in New York: Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, New York City’s redevelopment of Willets Point in Queens, and the expansion of Columbia University in Morningside Heights (see image above). In the case of Atlantic Yards, the rating system will award the project points for being close to mass transit, even though its environmental impact study found that it will encourage auto use. Angotti suggests that the key for the system’s improvement is better community-based planning and more input from local residents

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3 Responses to Taking a Hard Look at the New LEED for Neighborhood Development Standard

  1. anon January 24, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    “In addition to highlighting the relatively low number of LEED-certified buildings in New York City…”

    It should be noted that buildings earn LEED Certification well after construction is complete. Kudos to the 15 LEED certified buildings – they were trail blazers, adopting LEED very early in the USGBCs development of the rating system.

    It is unfortunate, however, that the article fails to mention the 311 LEED “Registered” projects (as of December 2007) in New York City that are currently being designed and constructed and anticipate certification over the next couple of years.

  2. Stephen Del Percio January 24, 2008 at 5:52 pm #

    Your point is well-taken, and those fifteen buildings absolutely deserve recognition; many, from the Solaire to 7 World Trade Center and Hearst Tower, are ground-breaking pieces of sustainable architecture. USGBC has also made significant recent efforts to streamline the certification process and increase staff that evaluates applications in order to increase the number of projects that proceed all the way to an official rating. However, I do think Mr. Agnotti was trying to draw some bigger conclusions about developer attitudes towards LEED. Like it or not, the statistics from USGBC in terms of projects proceeding from registration to certification are low. (1,004 out of 7,315 commercial projects as of August 2007). I don’t think it’s unreasonable to conclude that many developers are simply registering their projects in order to capture green goodwill.

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