Tuesday, June 25, 2013

LEED Rating System Indirectly Shortens Driving Trips

Traffic congestion along Highway 401 in Ontario, Canada. Image Credit: Robert Jack via Wikipedia.
LEED experts have always suggested that LEED, aside from improving the welfare of its inhabitants, can also shorten driving trips, and dramatically decrease carbon imprint. Now, this theory has finally been confirmed as recent research showed that LEED for Neighborhood Development can actually lower driving rates than the average in a non-LEED metropolitan area. In fact, for 12 LEED-ND projects, the estimated vehicle miles per trip of a person ranged somewhere from 24 to 60% compared to the regional average. Projects that are highly urban and centrally located also have the highest shares of walking and lowest use of private vehicles. 

Even the least performing LEED-ND projects report 40% less driving than the average rate. The drastically lower driving rates find reason in the highly sustainable model of LEED-ND, where the rating is based on projects that must be within close proximity to each other and close to urbanized areas. Another highlight of LEED-ND is the necessity of walkable streets and densities, and several transit options. Green buildings and infrastructure are required to get a LEED-ND certification. 

Compared to other LEED rating systems, LEED-ND values not only individual infrastructure, but also location and land design. 

The figures were reported by Reid Ewing, a renowned transportation expert from the University of Utah, and published last April in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. Along with four other researchers, Ewing looked at 238 developments in six regions—Atlanta, Boston, Portland, Houston, Sacramento, and Seattle—in order to evaluate the transportation behavior of the people. The team then generated formulas for trip characteristics, including walking and transit use, trips for external automobiles, and internal capture trips. 

A preliminary analysis has already been done on the topic last 2010 by Eliot Allen of the Criterion Planners in Portland. In a demonstration analysis, he said that subscribing to LEED-ND can save as many as 12,000 lbs of carbon capita per year, resulting in an overall reduction of 30% in carbon. 

Norsteel fully supports neighborhood-scale efforts of environmental sustainability. Talk to us, and we can help your building help your neighborhood, as well as the environment.

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