The Quest for Sustainable Communities: The Role of Performance Monitoring in the Planning, Design, and Certification of Sustainable Neighborhoods
Sustainability is an ever-changing concept. The quest for sustainable communities is intrinsically linked to the international policy discussions on sustainable development. This quest has resulted in the spawning of numerous sustainable community certification systems (SCCS) around the world. This thesis identified eight relevant SCCS that were originated as a consequence of international policy discussions on sustainable development and that have been incorporated as part of national, state, and local policies; including public housing strategies, land use regulation, or showcasing them as best-practices and exemplary for developing communities: 1) Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method for Communities (BREEAM Communities), in the United Kingdom; 2) Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency for Urban Development (CASBEE-UD), in Japan; 3) German Green Building Council for New City Districts (DGNB-NSQ), in Germany; 4) Integrated Sustainable Urban Development (DUIS), in Mexico; 5) Green Star Communities, in Australia; 6) Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE-A), in France; 7) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND), in the United States; and 8) Pearl Rating System for Estidama Community Rating System: Design and Construction (PEARL Community), in the United Arab Emirates. The objective of studying these eight SCCS is to compare them and improve the understanding of its rating levels, parameters, scoring, certification process, and criteria. Along the way, this thesis provides a compilation of existing SCCS useful to policymakers and practitioners interested in the planning, design, and certification of sustainable neighborhoods. Moreover, this thesis focuses on the study of LEED-ND. The research methodology consisted of three steps: 1) a review of the existing literature; 2) a site analysis of a LEED-ND certified neighborhood, Mueller, located in Austin, Texas; and 3) a trend study of the change in the transportation behavior of the residents of Mueller before and after its redevelopment using LEED-ND. The findings of this thesis indicate that designing, planning, and certifying Mueller using LEED-ND has not resulted so far into the expected reduction of commuting by automobile or increase of commuting by alternative modes of transportation. Consequently, performance monitoring of LEED-ND certified neighborhoods emerges as an opportunity of improving LEED-ND by measuring and demonstrating whether its expected sustainability outcomes are achieved. Finally, this thesis adds to the literature that suggests that a performance based approach to design, plan, and certify neighborhoods is necessary and represents the next logical step in the quest for sustainable communities.