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Onsite Gardens LEED the Green-Building Industry

With the rise in demand for resource efficiency, proper indoor air quality, and lower energy bills, green buildings are swiftly making gains in the construction industry – they are becoming a stronger economic competitor in the field than ever before, with whom traditionally-constructed buildings cannot contend.

What is LEED?

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification encourages innovation in sustainable urban development by awarding credits to projects that satisfy requirements in categories such as Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, and Indoor Environmental Quality.  LEED-designed work and living places stimulate resource efficiency and productive communities.  The acclaimed program has become the industry standard in this new era of building design, and those who pursue certification benefit from instant name recognition, amongst many other merits, including:

  • Long-term wellness and environmental payoff
  • Possible tax incentives
  • High return-on-investment
  • Increased marketability
  • The prestige of being amongst an elite group of green-building entrepreneurs

Social Equity Meets Community Development

In recognizing the effects of urban sprawl, the LEED certification track for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) was designed to promote and ensure healthier, more sustainable communities.  The program allows development projects to earn credit for implementing edible growing space on their property.  Many 150804-eastboston-ymca-harvesting-suzanne-kreitercommittees have successfully pursued an onsite, LEED-certified garden, nurturing their communities with fresh produce and interactive growing spaces.

The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) has been meticulously providing safe and affordable living situations for low-income residents since 1944 and has since been striving to introduce a diverse spread of incomes into residential communities.  Westlawn Gardens used to be a severely outdated housing community built to accommodate low-income families in northwest Milwaukee – the buildings were in need of renovation, the market-value was low, and access to fresh fruits and vegetables was abysmal.  HACM decided to invest in a redevelopment project to increase marketability and give the community a more comfortable housing option.  

Westlawn Gardens began its 24-acre redevelopment transition in 2013, and has since been recognized as “a true example of how social, environmental and financial sustainability can be achieved within a public housing project’s limited budget,” Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett raves.  This impressive project has established itself as the highest level of certification in the LEED 2009 Neighborhood Development program, and also features the first Platinum-certified home in Milwaukee.  Home to over 300 residents, Westlawn Gardens has proudly earned the prestige of an exemplary, green neighborhood development.

“This innovative project represents a new vision for sustainable and affordable housing projects…..  It proves that even low- and moderate-income communities can vibrantly revitalize themselves.”

– Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Westlawn Gardens have dedicated permanent growing space to their 30,000-square foot community garden and sustainable food production program within the development, which includes proper solar access, watering systems, raised garden beds, and secure storage space for tools.  Beyond their fulfillment of LEED’s Local Food Production credit, Westlawn Gardens features high pedestrian accessibility, bioswale rain gardens, geothermal heated and cooled apartment complexes.  They continue to grow and create a healthy and involved community of diverse incomes and backgrounds, and have proven to future neighborhood development projects that participation within a community garden can nurture a clean environment and healthy community.  Westlawn Gardens’ complete LEED scorecard displays the credits they have earned towards certification.  


Creating Your Own LEED-Certified Garden

Interested in having a LEED-certified garden at your building or development site? Beyond reaping the many benefits of being accredited by the most widely used third-party, green-building certification program, having a garden on your site could earn your project up to six credits towards your certification track.

Our LEED Guide overviews the six possible credits available for buildings with on-site gardens.

Download Full Guide

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