Community
How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.
 

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A Sustainability Scorecard that can be applied to development plans and applications for new developments, and used as an educational tool by planners, developers, councillors, and the public.

Introduction
(1) Location
(2) Density
(3) Urban Design
(4) Ecological Protection
(5) A Village Centre
(6) Local Economy
(7) Transport
(8) Affordable Housing
(9) A Healthy, Livable Community
(10) Eco-Sustainability

intro

a
Ecologically designed houses
at Findhorn, northern Scotland

How can we encourage new subdivisions and development projects to embrace the principles and practices of sustainable development? These practices have been shown in numerous studies to be beneficial:

  • to the local, regional and global environment
  • to the social life of the inhabitants,
  • to the strength of the local economy,
  • to municipal tax-payers, through reduced infrastructure costs, and
  • to the pocketbook of the developer.

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) has developed its LEED Green Building Rating System for commercial buildings, which is being embraced right across the market. The USGBC is in the process of developing a rating system provisionally called "LEED for Neighborhoods", which will apply to subdivisions, and similar development proposals. It is not clear how soon this will be ready; maybe in two years, maybe five.

In Texas, the City of Austin developed a Smart Growth Matrix Incentive Program which granted a developer a possible 635 points in 14 categories, rewarding high-scoring proposals with fee waivers and municipal infrastructure support. (See www.ci.austin.tx.us/smartgrowth/matrix.htm). The Incentive Program ended in Summer 2003, for reasons which I have not yet established. For a brief overview, see www.earthfuture.com/econews/back_issues/00-12.asp

In July 2001, the US National Governors’ Association adopted a set of Smart Growth Guidelines for New Community Design, which offer a similar analysis, but without the points. The text is available from the Fairfax Coalition for Smarter Growth (www.smartergrowth.org/nga_smart_growth.htm ).

This proposed Sustainability Scorecard reflects many of the accepted practices of sustainable land-use development. It has been designed for use as an educational tool to analyze and comment on development proposals. It could also be used as an assessment tool for development proposals, such that a proposal must score a minimum number of points in order to be considered by a Planning Department. The Scorecard offers developers plenty of flexibility in the way they can score the points, so it need not cramp their style.

The Scorecard has 10 dimensions, each of which contains questions allowing 10 points, for a total of 100. If it is to be applied as an objective tool, some of the points will need to be refined and developed, to allow for objective third party assessment.

The scoring of a project should be undertaken by the developer, and then ratified by the Planning Department and by a local community group (if one exists). Any differences in the scoring could then be discussed. The merit of using the Scorecard is that it sets a template for an overall vision based in the principles of sustainable development, draws the attention of developers, planners, councillors and the public to areas of a project which might be weak, and encourages improvements. It also allows Councils and developers to be proud of projects which score a high rating, and to gather the appropriate attention and publicity.

This Sustainability Scorecard was first written for the South Island Sustainable Communities Coalition, and was published in 'A Capital Idea' (Eco-Research Chair, University of Victoria, Canada, 1998). It has been refined several times, a process which continues, based on public feedback. Please send any comments or suggestions to the author, Guy Dauncey, at guydauncey@earthfuture.com . (250-881-1304)


0

1

  • Has the developer demonstrated that the project has a sufficient supply of water to meet its needs, without reducing the supply to existing users? MANDATORY
  • Is the planned location on an existing transit or LRT route, or have plans been approved to extend such a route to the development? MANDATORY
  • Does the project avoid useable farmland?
    - 3 points
  • Is the location in accord with the current Official Community Plan ?
    - 3 points
  • Has the project been designed to be a "complete community", with a village centre, places of work, and a community meeting place?
    - 4 points

2

c
The Ithaca EcoVillage, New York

15+ units per acre is the threshold considered necessary for public transit to be financially viable. This also allows for more greenspace, better ecological protection and better pedestrian design.

  • What is the planned density (incl. urban parks ?)

    < 10 units per acre: 0 points
    10 – 14 units per acre: 1 point
    15 – 19 units per acre: 2 points
    20 – 24 units per acre: 3 points
    25 – 29 units per acre: 4 points
    30 – 34 units per acre: 5 points
    35 – 39 units per acre: 6 points
    40 – 44 units per acre: 7 points
    45 – 49 units per acre: 8 points
    50 – 55 units per acre: 9 points
    > 56 units per acre: 10 points

3
A sustainable community needs a design that encourages face-to-face meetings, pedestrian use, a strong sense of place and contact with nature.

  • Do the plans emphasize pedestrian activity?
    - 3 points
  • Do the plans encourage face-to-face meetings, and create a strong sense of place?
    - 3 points
  • Do the plans preserve existing heritage buildings?
    - 1 point
  • Do the landscape design guidelines encourage contact with nature?
    - 2 points
  • Do the plans include design code specifications? 
    - 1 point

4

  • Have you done an ecological inventory of the site?
    - 3 points
  • Do the plans provide for the protection of creeks, swamps, nesting sites, and other habitats? 
    - 3 points
  • Do the plans propose conservation covenants or other protective measures for ecologically sensitive areas? 
    - 2 points
  • Do the plans include a monitoring and enforcement strategy for the covenants?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans emphasize the use of native species, and organic landscape maintenance?
    - 1 point

5

  • Do the plans include a village centre (or centres) where people can gather, shop and socialize?
    - 3 points
  • Is the centre sufficient to the scale of the development?
    - 2 points
  • Does the centre have an attractive urban design with landscaping and pedestrian areas, to encourage use? 
    - 2 points
  • Has the centre been designed so that parking takes a secondary role to pedestrian uses?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include a bond to underwrite a leasehold subsidy for the first five years, in the event that you do not secure the lease or ownership of retail outlets in the centre?
    - 2 points

6
Either:

  • Is the development adjacent to an existing urban centre to which the residents can walk within ten minutes?
    - 10 points

Or:

  • Has part of the land been zoned for commercial and/or industrial use?
    - 3 points
  • Have you developed a working strategy to encourage local economic development?
    - 2 points
  • Do the plans encourage home based businesses?
    - 2 points
  • Do the plans encourage live-work units?
    - 2 points
  • Do the plan encourage eco-industrial networking?
    - 1 point

7

  • dude Do the plans include comfortable transit/LRT stops?
    - 2 points
  • Does it have narrow interconnecting streets with sidewalks, as opposed to the wider suburban streets?
    - 1 point
  • Does it have traffic calming at pedestrian crossings & neighbourhood centres?
    - 1 point
  • Does it have pedestrian trails and cut-throughs?
    - 1 point
  • Does it have cycle-lanes on the busier roads?
    - 1 point
  • Does it have local greenways connections?
    - 1 point
  • Does it have car-free residential areas?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include a Transportation Demand Strategy, to reduce overall trips and parking requirements?
    - 2 points

8

  • Do the plans include a range of housing types and prices?
    - 2 points
  • Are 20% or more of the units for sale at a price which is affordable to people on lower incomes?
    - 3 points
  • Are secondary suites allowed? 
    - 1 point
  • Are granny suites and live-above garage conversions allowed?
    - 1 point
  • Have 5% of the units been set aside for construction by non-profit housing groups?
    - 1 point
  • If there are no affordable units, has a DCC been paid to the local council to finance construction of affordable units elsewhere? 
    - 1 point
  • Do the affordable homes blend in with the other homes?
    - 1 point

9

  • Do the plans include parks, tot-lots and green space?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include community allotment gardens?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include a community hall?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include space for a place of worship?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include the necessary schools?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include a seniors centre?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include facilities for teens?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans include space for the arts?
    - 1 point
  • Is there a strategy in place to finance and build the community facilities?
    - 2 points

10

  • b
    Villages Homes, Davis, CA
    Do the plans include tertiary sewage treatment ?
    - 1 point
  • If YES, is the treated water to be recycled for irrigation and secondary plumbing for toilets?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans stipulate water efficiency ?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans stipulate a zero increase in groundwater run-off?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans facilitate passive solar design for 50% or more of the buildings?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans stipulate energy efficient building designs equivalent to the R2000 level?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans either include district heating & cooling or ground source heating & cooling?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans facilitate in-house recycling?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans require the recycling of 90% of the construction wastes?
    - 1 point
  • Do the plans require the use of green/non-toxic building materials?
    - 1 point

total