The U.S. Green Building Council and various partners are developing an environmental rating system for neighborhoods… similar to what they’ve been implementing for a decade or more concerning buildings. In their words:
The LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building into the first national standard for neighborhood design. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a development’s location and design meet accepted high standards for environmentally responsible, sustainable, development.
This is important work… getting into detail about suburban sprawl, distance, stormwater runoff, wetlands, etc. But what of community?
I’m encouraged that the pilot version of the rating system prefers “open communities” vs. “gated” ones. And it rewards infrastructure that promotes community, like sidewalks and dense development. I didn’t see anything about front porches, but I was skimming and could have missed it.
I encourage the good folks involved with this seemingly very complex process to get even more explicit about fostering community within the neighborhood. Scoring high on this rating system would indicate strong environmental performance and say something about the potential for being a decent place to actually live… but is it a friendly place full of good neighbors?
I posit that one well-oiled Front Porch Forum can do more for environment and community than whole collections of sidewalks, solar panels and official open space. Our neighborhood, I’d guess, would score well since it was laid out in the 1920s… dense, mixed use, walkable within and to just about everything in town, lots of front porches! However, old-timers here report that it warmed up considerably once Front Porch Forum kicked into gear.
Now since the success of the neighborhood forum, it’s not unusual for a neighbor to call around offering to pick up items at the grocery before driving there, saving several car trips. And one stroller typically is used by three or four families before cycling out. Neighbors have a stuff-sharing list… canoes, lawn mowers, ice cream makers… why own one if you can borrow instead (and, of course, loan your stuff occasionally). And people use Front Porch Forum to turn out the neighbors for environmental actions all the time… clean-up days, public meetings, protests, etc.
So, I suggest that a neighborhood with a strong sense of community is highly desirable and that should be reflected in the LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System. How about a Front Porch Forum in every neighborhood! 😉