• Brownfield Redevelopment
     • Green Building Standards
     • Accessory Dwelling Units

     • Historic Preservation
     • Main Street Program

     • Alt. Energy Ordinances
     • Stormwater Management

     • Smart Growth Code Fixes
     • Form-Based Codes
     • LEED-ND
     • Transit Oriented Dev.
     • Zoning Ordinances
     • Scenario Planning

     • Agricultural Security Areas
     • Clustered Subdivisions
     • Official Map Ordinance

     • Access Management
     • Complete Streets Policy
     • Impact Fees
     • Traffic Calming
     • Walkability

LEED-ND logo


The United States Green Building Council has been at the forefront of promoting sustainability in building design and engineering for close to a decade. The Council has traditionally focused on individual buildings and single-building rehabilitations; however, the group recently developed a certification for land development projects and whole neighborhood plans. Called LEED-ND, this program allows applicants (usually the developer) to receive credits for characteristics and design inclusions that promote sustainability and Smart Growth principles. Enough credits will allow the development to receive certification at varying levels of sustainability, which can be used to help market the project.

Many planners and municipal officials have looked to the LEED-ND credits as innovative metrics for sustainable urban design. In response to this interest, the USGBC teamed up with the Land Use Law Center at Pace University to publish the Technical Guidance Manual for Sustainable Neighborhoods in order to provide local governments with the tools to better include sustainability provisions in their regulations and policies regarding land development and use.

The guidebook uses LEED-ND certification criteria as a basis for ordinance and policy recommendations for municipalities. It is broken into five main sections: integrating LEED-ND into local plans, zoning code elements, SALDOs, building codes and non-regulatory initiatives/internal policies. Each section defines key sustainability goals and identifies ordinance and policy language changes needed to achieve those goals. The recommendations provide examples directly from the LEED-ND program, but are designed to be tailored to suit the needs of individual local governments.

The guidebook presents itself as a menu of options for municipalities in order to strengthen sustainability in the land development process in general or in specified sustainable development districts. The guidebook also provides case studies for most of the recommendations.

Municipal benefits of auditing ordinance s and polices using the guidebook is to allow for easier development of LEED and LEED-ND projects. One of the most cited obstacles to developing to LEED or LEED-ND standards is the need to receive variances and waivers, which introduces risk into the land development process.


  • Promotes sustainability in the land development process
  • Supports Smart Growth goals
  • Makes LEED and National Association of Home Builders Green Building certification easier


  • Increased project costs
  • Costs associated with plan and ordinance change
  • Potential resistance from developers

Practical Tips:

  • Solicit feedback from various stake holders during the formulation process. This should include citizens, elected officials, developers, etc.
  • Use the planning process to identify sustainability goals and drive changes to the ordinances and policies 


Architectural rendering of a business corner and plaza