LEED-ND and Livability Revisited

Cite as: Boeing, G., D. Church, H. Hubbard, J. Mickens, and L. Rudis. 2014. “LEED-ND and Livability Revisited.” Berkeley Planning Journal, 27 (1), 31–55.

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This study examines LEED-ND’s criteria for Neighborhood Pattern and Design (NPD). LEED-ND was developed as a system for rating new neighborhoods on the sustainability of their planning. However, it has increasingly been adopted by cities as a de facto measure of “livable” neighborhood design and used to accelerate development processes. We hypothesize that these criteria do not accurately capture livability as defined by residents. Our study area is Temescal, a gentrifying neighborhood in Oakland, CA. Temescal could not achieve LEED-ND certification due to technical disqualifications yet residents of the neighborhood rated its livability very highly. Furthermore, residents consistently rated and ranked NPD characteristics quite differently than did LEED-ND, calling into question its validity as a universally codifiable rating system. We propose that a single set of weighted, prescriptive design guidelines may not be able to reflect the diverse values and desired amenities of different communities.