Energy & Environment

Cities Get Green Certifications for More Than Just Buildings

Cities and counties can now earn eco-certification for everything from the roads they build to the vehicles that ride on them.
by | May 2012

We’ve come a long way in the 12 years since the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) started bestowing LEED certification on eco-friendly buildings. (More than 137,000 public and private projects have been certified under the program, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, since 2000.) These days, cities and counties can earn eco-certification for everything from the roads they build to the vehicles that ride on them.

Cities: Most cities have long-term sustainability plans and “greenprints.” But those plans can actually earn certification from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) if they’re green enough -- and if a city sticks with its plan. Several European cities have received ISO certification, but only a handful of places in the U.S., including Dallas, Denver and San Diego, are registered.

Schools: Similar to its ratings for commercial buildings, USGBC’s LEED for Schools program scores educational facilities based on environmental impact. One difference: LEED for Schools emphasizes children’s health. Ohio is the only state that requires LEED ratings for schools, but the USGBC program has registered 700 K-12 facilities nationwide since it launched in 2007.

Neighborhoods: Only three U.S. neighborhoods so far have earned certification under USGBC’s LEED for Neighborhood Development, launched in 2009. San Diego’s Village at Market Creek is the latest. The 90-acre development, to be completed over the next 20 years, was cited for its walkability, energy savings and transit connections.

Landscapes: The American Society of Landscape Architects in 2010 began piloting the nation’s first green rating system for landscape design, construction and maintenance. This January, three of the more than 150 pilot projects were certified. The group evaluates things like stormwater runoff and mitigating the urban heat effect. The program opens to everyone in 2013.

Roads: This year, a road in Bellingham, Wash., became the first to be certified under the Greenroads Rating System. The city created a material it called “poticrete” -- porous asphalt and crushed porcelain from recycled toilets -- and the road was certified silver, one of four levels offered by the national nonprofit Greenroads Foundation.

Fleets: The Association of Equipment Management Professionals certified its first public-sector fleet green in 2010. And the Coalition for Green Fleet Management started CLEANFleet Certifications last year.

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