Green housing in NYT, sorta

Dwell editor Allison Arieff recently wrote on her “TimesSelect blog”: about sustainable homes, noting Sonoma Mountain Village (seeking LEED-Platinum for all 1800 DUs) at a former Agilent corporate campus in Rohnert Park, Calif.; prefab sustainable homes from three companies; and calling “even better” two green multifamily developments in Southern California.

She defines New Urbanism thusly:

bq. “founded in reaction to sprawl, is based on principles of planning and architecture that work together to create human-scale, walkable communities.”

My response:

The next big leap in new sustainable homes will come later this year, when the USGBC and its partners, the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council, plan on launching a new LEED rating system for Neighborhood Developments (LEED-ND). Currently, LEED doesn’t look far beyond a building’s exterior walls, even though a building’s neighborhood context vastly influences its occupants’ abilities to lead sustainable lifestyles.

The irony of LEED-certified suburban houses is that Americans consume a third more energy driving to and from their houses than they consume while inside their houses, according to the Energy Information Administration. Thus, a car-free, urban family living in a drafty old bungalow might still tread lighter on the earth than a family driving hybrid SUVs to an off-grid exurban home. Even better, as Allison says, would be a family living car-light in a townhouse or apartment, which offers inherent advantages over single-family houses in terms of insulation, walkability, and affordability. That’s exactly the kind of development choices that LEED is agnostic to but that LEED-ND will reward.