This credit, at first glance, seemed to belong in Location & Linkages, since it is about the location we chose to build our house. But upon further reading, it is more about how we use our specific site. The USGBC encourages efficient land use — basically, squishing us humans together as much as possible to make sure there’s enough space for undeveloped land. Compact development also promotes community livability, transportation efficiency, and walkability. No argument there (except from the Cato Institute).
There are three levels, worth 2, 3, and 4 points, respectively. The first one sets the bar:
Moderate Density. Build homes with an average housing density of 7 or more dwelling units per acre of buildable land. A single home on 1/7 acre buildable lot qualifies.
High Density is the same requirement, but the lot needs to be 1/10 acre; Very High Density requires 1/20 acre (or 20 or more dwelling units per acre).
This is definitely an urban planning / public policy issue for cities and suburbs. As the population grows, we will have to live more compactly. The problem with this credit, though, is that I am not sure how much individual homeowners have a say in this. The fact is, we bought an existing house in the city (for which we got the maximum number of points under Location & Linkages) that had predefined lot lines. We got 1/3 acre, which is about the same size as most of our neighbors’ lots. I strongly doubt we could have subdivided this lot into 3 or more dwelling units OR built a multi-family housing unit here. There is no way we would have gotten a building permit from the city of Minneapolis, even if it is a “sustainable” city. Ha.
I suppose we could have purchased a home that sits on 1/7 acre or less, but my guess is that it would not have had such great access to open space (LL6). We would not have liked it as much either. So, I shrug my shoulders on this one; we get no points.
Total Sustainable Sites points: 12 (needed 5 minimum)
Cumulative points: 26
Additional points needed to get to Gold: 62