We all know the great benefits of green buildings to the environment and human health, but did you know that the location of the building is also extremely important for a building to be green? A good project location can also earn lots of points towards the LEED certification, which is currently the most widely used green building rating system in the world. To turn the project goals into reality, a strong evaluation of the project location is mandatory.
The location of a green building project should first promote smart growth, which refers to the approach that protects undeveloped lands and contributes to developments in projects near jobs, schools, shops, and other destination points with diverse uses. An example may be a residential project that is located very close to downtown, which also contains several public transportation options.
Being within walking distance of grocery stores or restaurants will reduce vehicle driving and consequently reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Bicycle networks will also help reduce emissions and promote physical exercise. The location and design of the neighborhood should aim to reduce vehicle miles traveled and also create developments that contain both jobs and services that are accessible by foot or public transit. A residential project in a suburban area that requires driving many miles to the downtown area for people to commute would not contribute to smart growth, and that project would hence support suburban sprawl.
Suburban sprawl has lots of consequences to the environment. First, the construction of a building on undeveloped land will destroy the habitat and wildlife in that location. Second, suburban sprawl will result in car dependency, which will further damage the environment with the greenhouse gases created. In addition, after people start moving to suburban areas, the cities will need to provide infrastructure to the suburban areas, which will create additional consequences for the environment. By implementing smart growth strategies, a green building can enhance its contribution to environmentally friendly design and also earn more points towards the LEED certification.
Below are the main principles of smart growth:
- Protect undeveloped land
- Reuse/restore previously developed sites
- Reduce automobile use and promote public transportation
- Develop efficient rainwater management
- Reduce the heat island effect
- Reduce lighting pollution
- Provide stewardship of nature and the site’s surroundings
To protect the habitat, green buildings should never be developed inside sensitive lands; instead, infill sites should be preferred. Infill sites, or infill developments, are sites that were either previously developed or were already being used for other purposes in urban areas. An example of an infill site could be a project location inside the downtown of a city that was used as a parking lot. Or it could be the site of a demolished building. Since infill sites have existing infrastructure and also have public transportation options, locating the project at an infill site would not create the negative consequences of suburban sprawl.
Locating the project on brownfield sites and remediating them before the start of construction can be another option, which can also gain extra points in the LEED certification. Brownfield sites are previously developed sites that were contaminated with waste or pollution. A site that has an abandoned building with unknown contamination can also be classified as a brownfield site. Once the contamination is cleaned up, these sites can be an excellent option for project development, and the federal, state, or municipal government can offer tax incentives on the property to support development.
To discourage suburban sprawl, we should pay special attention to the neighborhood pattern and design. A healthy neighborhood should contain wide sidewalks, benches, and bicycle networks. Business centers, retail services, educational facilities, and other diverse uses should be close enough to minimize travel. Public transportation options should be easily accessible. Street layouts should allow for easy connectivity, and if community gardens, farmers markets, and agricultural programs are established, a neighborhood could also be able to support access to sustainable food. The aforementioned strategies are also a part of compact development strategies, which promote efficient neighborhoods and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The LEED for Neighborhood Development Location (LEED ND) rating system is designed to provide smart growth and promote sustainability in neighborhoods. The LEED ND rating system is designed to ensure that the developing neighborhood integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building. Cities are increasingly using LEED ND certification to establish greener neighborhoods. And if a building project is located inside one of those LEED ND-certified sites, it will receive more points towards the LEED certification.
There are lots of different ways to go green and choosing a good project location is surely one of them. In our time, there are various green building rating systems that can help project teams create green building projects. LEED, which is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, can be a great starting point for constructing a green building and it can also be a great guidance on selecting the project’s location. LEED-certified buildings are proven to be environmentally friendly and to respect human health.
If you are in the design or construction industry, you can even think about earning a LEED credential to make your projects green and enhance your career. All you need to do is study for your LEED exam and become a LEED Green Associate or a LEED Accredited Professional.
Author: A. Togay Koralturk
Author of LEED Complete Study Guides