Environmental considerations in real estate development should go beyond the LEEDS standards if we truly plan to do the things that have the greatest local environmental impact.
LEEDS Standards - The LEEDS environmental building standards tend to monopolize the thinking when it comes to responsible development and environmental impact. Without doubt, LEEDS is a good thing. However, there are things that we can implement in our planning that have far more positive local environmental impact than we can acheive by focusing on the LEEDS building standards.
Responsible Water Management - The image above illustrates a "turfstone" parking surface. It may be substantially more expensive to implement than an asphalt or concrete surface, but it is far better for the environment and can save money in development other ways. In comparison to a hard surface parking lot, the solution above allows storm water to percolate through the soil, purify itself, and replenish the underground fresh water aquifer as nature intended. This saves development cost by reducing the need for storm sewers to channel surface water runoff. In the process, it also prevents rainwater from becoming polluted by picking up tars, oils and other surface pollutants as it collects on an asphalt parking surface before making its way to the storm sewer. And in terms of comfort, the local temperature difference between an asphalt parking surface and the above solution on a hot, sunny day is likely in the range of a sweltering 15F to 20F degrees. Think people will fail to notice the difference?
Nature's Air Conditioners - Add mature shade trees to the environmental equation and the picture gets even brighter. Without delving into the science of trees' environmental cleansing abilities, it has been shown that trees help to reduce surface temperature, remove harmful pollutants from the air and soil including sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone, and help with water management by absorbing large amounts of ground water, returning it in helpful aerosol form to the surrounding air. Aside from the above science, there's also the realization that people simply enjoy the effects of temperature moderating shade.
With just a little more thoughtfulness in our planning we can work to create the kinds of places that people bring people together, that benefit the local environment and that beautify the community - the kinds of places where people choose to be.