It’s Not Easy Being Green

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage “green building” by establishing common standards of measurement, promoting best practices, recognizing leadership in the building industry, raising consumer awareness, and ultimately to transform the building market.

McNeighborhoodOne of the things the Northfield Planning Commission is hoping to encourage (via revisions to the Comprehensive Plan and local ordinances) is increased development which meets LEED standards, or at least shows significant progress in that area.

Pioneer architect Doug Farr, principal of the firm which has designed two of the 23 buildings in the entire world which have received the highest available Platinum designation by LEED, and the only firm to have been awarded more than one Platinum, is broadening the vision. Farr wants to move beyond sustainable buildings to the idea of sustainable neighborhoods.

“Sustainable development” is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

According to Farr, it doesn’t take much more time and effort to design two square miles of neighborhood than it does to design a single green building. Since a neighborhood can serve humanity for the next two centuries, it’s possible to achieve an exponentially greater result with incrementally greater effort. To that end, Farr is working to facilitate development of voluntary, consensus-based standards known as LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND).

Features of LEED-ND include: compact design, proximity to transit, mixed use, mixed housing type, and pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly design. Gee….. this is sounding kind of familiar… like things some people in Northfield have been trying to foster for several years now. But I digress.

In addition to working on the LEED-ND standards, Farr’s firm is finishing up a new book, Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature, which proposes leadership standards for governments and lawmakers. For a visionary, Farr is pretty practical. He doesn’t think that developers, builders, or consumers can be coerced into accepting these standards; he believes that LEED-ND will become the preferred option when it’s been proven to save money and retain value.

The Economic Development Plan for the City identified “Environmental Technologies” as one of six target industries to focus effort on, partly because of growing state and national trends, and because both Carleton and St. Olaf have sustainability-related programs. According to TIP Strategies, “Green building and wind power are on the verge of becoming established industries.” I’m feeling a convergence coming on here. Wouldn’t it be terrific if we could establish some new development along LEED-ND lines, using products and technologies from local companies? We’re not quite there yet, but we could be. If you’re interested in pursuing this idea, please contact me and we’ll see if we can get the right parties around the table to make this happen.

KermitClick here to watch Kermit singing the title song.

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