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If you already have a site plan, this credit is cut-and-dried

Typically, projects have already determined their site plan by the time the team begins considering LEED certification; if this is the case, you either have the credit or you don’t.

If your project location has not yet been determined, you can use the credit requirements as an environmental screening process when choosing your site. If the site is determined but the site plan isn’t set, consider whether the placement of buildings, roads, and other hardscapes on the site will tip you to compliance or non-compliance.

Previously developed or not?

This credit is intended to protect sensitive land as defined in the credit language. It also encourages projects to use previously developed land, by allowing specific exemptions for the criteria on water bodies and floodplains.

Up until November 2011, portions of sites that had been "developed, graded, or altered by direct human activities" were considered “previously developed” for purposes of this credit—leaving open questions about whether agriculture or other human actions that left a mark on the landscape fell under the definition. A November 2011 addendum from USGBC made this definition more specific, however, defining previously developed as involving "paving, construction, and/or land use that would typically have required regulatory permitting to have been initiated." Furthermore, "current or historical clearing or filling, agricultural or forestry use, or preserved natural area use are considered undeveloped land."

Documentation is easy—determining compliance can be hard

Documenting this credit is relatively easy—in LEED Online, you simply check off several boxes signifying compliance.

Habitat for endangered species such as the whooping crane is excluded from development in this credit.

Photo – Sammy King, USGS Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Actually verifying whether your project site meets the criteria can be a longer process, however. Check with the civil engineer on as many items as possible, then research any items that remain uncertain. The hardest items are generally determining if your land is prime farmland or considered habitat for threatened or endangered species. 

International projects may find it even more difficult

International projects must follow the definitions provided in U.S. standards, but determining compliance may be much more difficult because the mapping programs used to determine compliance are not available.

For example, to determine whether a U.S. project is in the 100-year flood zone, you will need to use the mapping program provided on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website. International projects may not have the same definition of flood plain and may not have access to a similar mapping program, making it more difficult to determine compliance.

Differences between NCv2.2 and v2009

The credit requirements for SSc1 are the same in NC v2.2 and v2009. However, in NC v2.2, there is more flexibility in defining your LEED boundary, as USGBC does not explicitly require the LEED boundary to represent your entire scope of work (as it does in v2009). However, it is best practice to have the LEED boundary match your scope of work. NC v2.2 also has the older, vague definition of "previously developed' still in place (see above).

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