What is Gained When Sprawl Goes For Green Credentials?
On Schmitt's radar are The Lakes of Orange, outside Cleveland ("Ohio's FIRST Green Certified Residential Community"), Saxony, outside Indianapolis, and The Bridgelands, far outside of Houston, which make varying dubious environmental claims in their marketing materials in order to respond to changing tastes.
Although "many of these new housing developments - to be fair - are real improvements over their 1990s counterparts," Schmitt looks beyond the greenwash to see that "any environmental savings these developments produce will likely be eclipsed by their near-total dependence on auto travel, which accounts for almost a third of Americans' energy use."
"The Lakes of Orange is on the undeveloped periphery of Cleveland - a shrinking city surrounded by a shrinking metro area. Literally 30,000 vacant homes that are already served by sewer, roads and water, sit closer to retail and work, accessible to the region's transit system."
While LEED-ND is intended to encourage more sustainable development patterns by awarding points for infill development and rehabbing existing buildings, only four or five projects have achieved certification.
"So when will we see a new 'Lakes of Orange' or ‘The Bridgelands' in a sustainable location with multiple transportation options and a LEED-ND seal? And when will that become the norm, not the exception? It's going to take a rethinking of the financial and regulatory incentives that favor sprawl, as well as increased awareness of what makes development truly sustainable - and that includes location efficiency, not just green roofs and compact fluorescent lightbulbs," concludes Schmitt.