Traditional Neighborhood Design - Minneapolis 1892
In an ongoing series, I’ve been trying to define areas of the Twin Cities metro that are “location efficient” using the USGBC’s LEED ND rating system. The previous posts focused on those requirements of LEED ND that cannot be met through the design of the project itself: features of the built and natural environment that determine a minimum eligibility for LEED ND based on location. This resulted in a map of areas in the region that met this basic level of “location efficiency”.
However, there are a few other requirements of LEED ND that can technically be met through the project design, but may not be able to be met in reality based on the existing built environment, or the current planning or zoning rules in a particular location. For example, LEED ND requires a minimum density for both residential and non-residential uses. Technically the density of the project is controllable by the project designer, however, if a city has land use regulations in place that only permit densities lower than what is required by LEED ND, plan and zoning amendments or variances would need to be granted before the project could go forward, all of which are not certain. Many communities are averse to the levels of density required by LEED ND, and therefore elected officials would be unlikely to grant such changes to land use regulations. Continue reading →
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD recently announced that they would start scoring grant applications by their “location efficiency” and use LEED for Neighborhood Development as a tool to do so. Location efficiency means new projects would have greater accessibility to surrounding jobs, commercial areas and transportation options.
HUD distributes over $3 billion in grants, so this policy change could potentially have a big impact on where and how new housing gets built. HUD provides many affordable housing programs, builds public housing, oversees the FHA, and regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
So what does it mean that they will begin scoring applications with LEED ND? The details aren’t out yet, but the rating system certainly has a lot to say about location efficiency as well as what locations are appropriate for development based on environmental significance. So, where might future HUD grantees be able to propose projects? Well, location efficiency will likely make up only one of many scoring categories, and I would be surprised if projects could be rejected solely based on poor location. However, we could start with the assumption that those locations that meet at least all the prerequisites for LEED ND would score highest.
In the next series of posts, I’ll look at what locations in the Twin Cities metro meet the prerequisites for LEED ND, as best as I can without having real project details. This exercise isn’t just about HUD, the goals of LEED ND are to promote smarter growth, make more energy efficient communities, provide real transportation options and generally build stronger, more sustainable communities. Thinking about the locations in the metro that are eligible for LEED ND is another way of thinking about where new growth should be planned that could provide the most sustainable outcome. If anyone ever wanted to do true regional planning, perhaps this is a place to start.
A major focus of America 2050 is the emergence of megaregions – large networks of metropolitan areas, where most of the population growth by mid-century will take place. Examples of megaregions are the Northeast Megaregion, from Boston to Washington, or Southern California, from Los Angeles to Tijuana, Mexico. They comprise multiple, adjacent metropolitan areas connected by overlapping commuting patterns, business travel, environmental landscapes and watersheds, linked economies, and social networks. At least ten megaregions have been identified in the United States.
In Europe and Southeast Asia, governments are investing tens of billions of dollars in high-speed rail and goods movement systems to connect networks of cities in what are termed “global integration zones.” These counterparts to America’s megaregions are increasingly being viewed as the new competitive units in the global economy, where knowledge workers can move freely among urban hubs. Economic regeneration strategies are also being deployed at this scale, to transition former industrial regions to the new information economy.