Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a widely accepted classification system that promotes environmentally responsible building design. In the past few years, the LEED rating system has moved to the next level, promoting energy-efficient neighborhoods through LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND). Signed into law in Illinois in 2007 and currently in the pilot phase nationwide, LEED-ND promotes compact, mixed-use development; housing that is near jobs, services and transit; pedestrian and bicycle-friendly streets; and accessible open space.
On behalf of MPC, long an advocate for LEED-ND, I recently helped shape the rating system for Illinois by participating as a member of the LEED-ND Illinois Regional Prioritization Credits task force. Regional Priority Credit’s provide extra incentive for developers to address environmental issues that are significantly important to a specific area. They aren’t new LEED-ND credits; they’re bonus credits. For example, when a project registers for LEED-ND, the team will receive a scorecard that shows the Regional Priority Credits for the project’s zip code. If the project earns one of the LEED-ND credits that have been identified a Regional Priority Credit, the project receives both the regular LEED-ND credit and a bonus Regional Priority Credit. Each Regional Priority Credit is worth one point, and up to four additional credits may be earned per project.
The Regional Priority Credits task force, headed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and comprised of representatives from MPC, Smart Growth America, Congress for the New Urbanism, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and state and local agencies, was charged with identifying credits of particular environmental importance for every zip code in Illinois. The task force reached out to colleagues across the state for their advice on the most appropriate credits for their region. Representatives from local, county, and regional planning offices selected the credits they felt addressed the most pressing needs in their communities and sent their preferences to the task force. The task force then compiled the input, looking for similarities between different regions. Ultimately, nine geographic zones for Illinois emerged from this comprehensive exercise, covering everything from “Metropolitan Urban Cores” and “Waterfront Industrial,” to “Rural and Small Towns.” Each geographic zone has six potential credits assigned to it.
USGBC is currently reviewing the Illinois zones and credits. For more information on LEED and LEED-ND, including the Regional Priority Credits, visit the USGBC web site.
I was happy to participate in the task force not only as a continuation of MPC’s work advocating for and promoting LEED-ND, but because I believe the type of neighborhoods LEED-ND promotes – compact with a mix of housing options near work and transit, quality open spaces, and complete streets – are sustainable, economically viable, and have residents who are invested in them. And, as MPC has learned through our work with communities on projects like the Corridor Development Initiative and Placemaking Chicago, residents who feel invested in their communities make all the difference in the world.