Over the past two years, the federal government has placed a renewed priority on climate change and sustainability, including new or expanded funding for sustainability initiatives. Many states and major cities are following suit. With the United States rejoining the Paris Climate Accords in 2021 and pressure to take appropriate action to divert greenhouse gas emissions, serious action is now being taken to protect the environment. Critical among these actions is an encouragement for cities nationwide to introduce environmentally responsible programs to ensure the health of their citizens and surrounding ecosystems. One way for cities and communities to accomplish this is through LEED Certification -- the world's most widely used green building rating system.
LEED Certification for Cities and Communities
Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, LEED for Cities and Communities is a sustainability certification program that assists localities in identifying their current actions while providing a set of global best practices for future improvements. The certification process provides an opportunity to create a baseline (for existing places), to think holistically about what makes a place sustainable and resilient, and to measure key metrics that are compared against a global set of benchmarks.
Applicable for nearly any “place” that consists of more than a single building, the USGBC defines cities as “places with a governing body,” and can also include, "towns, counties and other local government jurisdictions” while communities are any “non-city places, such as regions, districts, business improvement districts (BIDs), economic development zones, neighborhoods, campuses and military installations.”
LEED offers something for cities and communities of all shapes and sizes, either publicly or privately managed, new or old, and at different stages of development towards their sustainability goals. LEED for Cities is globally applicable and locally relevant and taking root in communities across the country. See the following link for a brief LEED for Cities and Communities introduction video.
What Are the Rating Factors?
LEED for Cities and Communities uses a rating system of 7 broad categories for localities to base their plan of action around and allows cities and communities to focus on what is most important to them:
- Natural Systems and Ecology
- Transportation and Land Use
- Water Efficiency
- Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Materials and Resources
- Quality of Life
Performance in these categories is tracked through an accumulation of credits and prerequisites. When applying for certification, there are 14 metrics of prerequisites that must be met across these core areas for cities and communities to be certified:
- Health & Safety
Who’s LEED Certified So Far?
As of May 2022, 160 cities and counties worldwide have been LEED certified, including Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio, larger cities such as Las Vegas, Nevada, Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, Arizona, and smaller cities such as Shaker Heights, Ohio and Royal Oak, Michigan. With continuing support from the Bank of America Foundation, a new cohort of 15 Cities and Counties were recently selected to become the latest to pursue LEED certification. The Bank of America Foundation has been the lead sponsor of the LEED Cities and Communities program, providing support to over 40 localities to date, so if your city or community is interested in becoming certified, be on the lookout for future grants that can offer financial assistance.
Making Cities & Communities Responsible
While the program is primarily targeted at cities and counties, there are numerous other possibilities. These can range from a manager representing a jurisdiction, a planner developing a new city or community, local developers working on a district or collection of buildings, or housing authority, or a local group measuring the sustainability of a neighborhood.
The process is similar to other LEED certification programs: you will first need to register in LEED Online, then optionally pre-certify your city or community, complete the documentation to certify, and then optionally recertify your project every five years. Recertification is a critical component to measuring your progress and adjusting practices and can be a powerful attraction and retention tool.
Join the multitude of cities and communities worldwide that are achieving LEED Cities and Communities certification and communicating their commitment to sustainability. Emerald Built Environments can help you determine the best plan of action to ensure your city or community becomes LEED certified and remains environmentally responsible.