By STEPHEN STUART
This wonderful Upper Delaware River community and the adjoining interior hamlets and villages on each side of the river continue to define themselves in the face of growth pressure. In the struggle of development versus green open space, many tools can be used to help bring both concepts together and yield very desirable results. One such tool is the United States Green Building Councils (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
The USGBC is a community of leaders working together to transform the way buildings are designed, built and operated with the vision of a healthy environment, responsible resource use and a prosperous environment which improves the quality of life. This is accomplished through the LEED program, which is a nationally recognized rating system that promotes good design, energy saving construction practices and efficient building operation to bring green buildings on-line.
Unlike the traditional linear approach to designing a building, LEED uses a holistic approach to designing buildings by front loading the process with the design teams and focusing on five key elements: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Before the first line is drawn on the blueprint page, a roadmap is developed to guide the new project to a green, healthy completion. The process is thorough, spanning from site selection to construction waste management, with the goal and focus to bring in an energy efficient building at a reasonable cost.
LEED goes beyond just new buildings, however, and this is where our communities can really benefit. The LEED New Neighborhood program provides innovative and challenging ways to build new communities which can give planning boards excellent tools in helping their towns and villages grow and still preserve open space.
The LEED Home program offers practical guidelines to design and build energy efficient, environmentally sound homes.
We know that this region will continue to be targeted for growth. This growth continues to put pressure on the preservation of open space and the preservation of our local agricultural districts. (Oddly enough, these are the very elements of this region that people say that they find most attractive and which are vital to preserve).
It is time for our elected leaders to do their job and to do it well; that is, it is time for them to be leaders. The old pass off of Its their land and they can do what they want with it is no longer viable or acceptable. The tools for sustainable development are available. They cost little and can provide good positive guidance for us as our communities grow.
My point? Our communities can benefit by exploring and adopting the USGBC LEED guidelines as community standards. If Sullivan County is going to build a new jail or allow a casino to be built, why not design and build to LEED Platinum standards? These facilities would be easier on the environment and would yield healthy environments for those occupying the buildings. Studies show that students and teachers do better in schools built to LEED standards.
Why not adopt LEED New Neighborhood as a standard for subdivisions and LEED Home as an energy conservation standard?
All that it takes is for our leaders to have the political will and courage to do so.
(Stephen Stuart is a green building and renewable energy designer and consultant residing in the Upper Delaware River Valley. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .)