Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) recommends changes to LEED-ND Stormwater Credit to protect watershed health



LEED for Neighborhood Development 

“Now that the full-fledged LEED for Neighborhood Development program has been operating for several months, its rating system is being studied with an eye to making improvements,” writes Robert Steuteville in an article posted on the New Urban Network. The article draws on a review completed by the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU).

The LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a development’s location and design meet accepted high levels of environmentally responsible, sustainable development.

LEED for Neighborhood Development is a collaboration among United States Green Building Council, Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.



Recognize the Watershed Scale

The CNU’s Rainwater-in-Context Initiative has weighed in on changes proposed to the stormwater credit — now titled Rainwater Management. According to the CNU, the stormwater credit:

  • continues to lack methodological rigor and may not adequately support the development patterns that are best for watershed health; and
  • places too much emphasis on how rainwater is handled at the level of the individual lot and too little emphasis on shared systems at the community or watershed scale.

Nora beck“The credit currently applies the same storage requirements to every site regardless of its regional context or density of development,” states Nora Beck of the CNU. In his article, Robert Steuteville states that CNU views this as getting in the way of good placemaking as well as reducing the potential for net improvements in overall watershed health.


About the Congress for the New Urbanism

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is the leading organization promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions. CNU works to deliver these hallmarks to communities across North America and overseas on multiple scales. CNU’s Partners have included:

  • United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration

The principles of New Urbanism are also central to making whole regions more livable, coherent and sustainable. Settings where new urbanists are active include both emerging growth areas and brownfields, suburbs and small towns where New Urbanism can either reinforce the character of existing walkable areas or help to “retrofit” automobile-oriented malls and office parks to become walkable communities.


To Learn More:

To read the complete article by Robert Steuteville, click on Rainwater and bike changes proposed in LEED-ND to download a copy.

To read their complete point-by-point review of LEED-ND and download a copy, click on CNU’s Rainwater-in-Context Initiative Subcommittee Reviews LEED-ND Rainwater Management Credit.


The View from British Columbia

“I am convinced a 90% infiltration rate on parcel is possible up to densities of about 20 dwellings per gross acre. Above that you depend more on the 35% of total area devoted to streets and lanes, then on nearby parks, schools, and constructed riparian areas,” observes Professor Patrick Condon, the James Taylor Chair at the University of British Columbia.

Patrick condon (120p)“If areas have large parking lots, then the layer under them is easiest to form as an infiltration zone. Green roofs have limited value unless all site and steet rights-of-way capacities have been capitalized on.”

Patrick Condon is the author of Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies for the Post Carbon World


Design with Nature

“The CNU’s Rainwater-in-Context Initiative is an important story,” adds Tim Pringle, President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, an autonomous non-profit society that is responsible for delivering British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Action Plan.

“Connecting the dots between LEED-ND and watershed health would result in significant alignment with the ‘design with nature’ philosohy that is guiding our approach to green infrastructure in British Columbia.”

“Reflecting on the CNU’s Rainwater-in-Context Initiative, it is also encouraging that our American colleagues appreciate that the distinction between Stormwater Management and RAINwater Management is substantive. Stormwater is associated with a ‘pipe-and-convey’ engineering philosophy. Rainwater is holistic and landscape-based.”


Implement a New Culture

“Respect for the land is key. Our land ethic will ultimatelty determine whether we achieve water sustainability. The Partnership vision is that water sustainability will be achieved through implementation of green infrastructure policies and practices. How we get there involves a change in mind-set.”

“In placing the priority on the watershed and the stream, the CNU’s Rainwater-in-Context Initiative mirrors the Beyond the Guidebook 2010 process that is being advanced in Britsh Columbia by a partnership which includes the Province, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, many municipalities, and non-government organizations.” 


To Learn More:

Click on British Columbia Moves Beyond 90% Rainfall Capture Target Proposed by United States EPA — At the end of the day it is how effectively we apply the suite of available rainwater management tools that will ultimately determine whether we will succeed in protecting stream health.

Click on Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia — There is now clear guidance for aligning local actions with provincial and regional goals to ‘design with nature’ so that British Columbians can create greener communities, live water smart and prepare for climate change.


Posted January 2011