LEED-certified Neighborhoods Showcase Sustainable Design

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Focus is on creating well-connected communities

Written by: Jason Hercules & Kurt Steiner

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system is the most widely used green building certification in the world and has helped define and grow the market for sustainable design and construction methods. The neighborhood-scale brings a host of new challenges and opportunities for growing sustainability, illustrated by several developments in Colorado that are certified under the LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) rating system.

Released as a pilot in 2008 and now available as part of LEED v4, the LEED-ND rating system integrates the established criteria for high-performance green building with measurable standards for evaluating a development’s location, connectivity, and internal design and infrastructure. More than 500 neighborhood projects—over 94,000 acres—are participating in LEED-ND, either as fully entitled plans or built projects. Similar to LEED commercial and residential building rating systems, neighborhood development projects must meet all prerequisites and accumulate a minimum number of points through optional credits to attain certification.

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LEED-ND certification reflects environmentally superior land development practices and helps to demonstrate that a project is aligned with community goals for the natural environment, public health, climate resilience, and decarbonization. Three projects in Colorado have achieved LEED-ND Gold certification, the second highest level attainable, and illustrate some of the benefits of smart, green development.

Denver Housing Authority’s Mariposa Mixed Use Development delivers both affordable and market-rate dwelling units on a site near the light rail that was previously home to a public housing development. The mixed-use community includes community gardens, an exercise park, public parks and facilitated steps to help foster residents’ health and well-being. The project helps advance Denver’s goals to increase affordable housing and promote transit-oriented development. In addition to LEED-ND certification, Mariposa District also won recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in the Equitable Development category.

Also located in Denver, LEED-ND Gold certified Park Avenue Redevelopment Block 3 is a redevelopment of a HOPE VI apartment complex to a compact, mixed-use development including affordable and market-rate units over four buildings, ground floor retail, and underground parking.

Rounding out the trio of LEED-ND Gold projects, South Sloans Lake is part of a redevelopment of a former hospital site, spanning seven blocks and featuring a mix of residential, retail, and office spaces in a compact, walkable neighborhood. The project complements the surrounding area’s mix of housing products, offering a wide variety of size and affordability to residents. It demonstrates outstanding location efficiency as an infill site with 100 percent of dwelling units within a quarter-mile walk of high frequency public transit service and nearby employment centers. Detailed streetscape design standards for each block and frontage also meet the highest LEED-ND threshold for walkable streets, promoting walking and other forms of active travel.

These projects are about communities and creating well-connected neighborhoods. They are engineered to inspire and help create better and more sustainable spaces.

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