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