Mother Earth Living

America's Top 10 Best Green-Built Neighborhoods

Natural Home chooses its top 10 favorite eco-friendly, energy-efficient planned communities in the United States.
By Olivia Blanco Mullins and Stephanie Nelson
May/June 2010
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Northwest Crossing in Bend, Oregon, offers residents 32 acres of parks.
Photo Courtesy Northwest Crossing
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Our favorite planned communities strive for responsible construction and promote sustainable living. Many are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program; others have local or state certifications for energy efficiency. Here’s a look at our top picks.

Think your community should be part of Natural Home’s next top 10? Send us your information! E-mail  editor@naturalhomemagazine.com with subject line “My community.”

1. Mueller
Austin, Texas 

On a former brownfield site, Mueller is a 700-acre mixed-use community that is home to more than 700 families, 25 percent of whom qualify as low-income.

■ 140 acres of open park space and hiking and biking trails
■ First Texas community to earn silver certification in the LEED-ND program
■ Community saves trees from surrounding developments and plants them on park grounds.

2. Madison Street
Chattanooga, Tennessee

A formerly dilapidated neighborhood near downtown, Madison Street is a flourishing artist community filled with galleries, studios and restaurants—and home to Chattanooga’s first LEED-certified homes.

■ Homes made with locally harvested and manufactured materials
■ Efficient building methods, HVAC systems, windows and appliances; nontoxic interior finish materials
■ Native, noninvasive groundcover and permeable paving

3. Northwest Crossing
Bend, Oregon 

A 486-acre mixed-used community, Northwest Crossing is near 32 acres of parks and has retail stores, locally owned restaurants and schools.

■ All buildings and homes certified by Oregon’s Earth Advantage program
■ Site planned to conserve native Ponderosa trees; xeriscaping throughout community
■ Mandatory stormwater retention and construction waste recycling 

4. Pine Ridge
Ketchum, Idaho

Affordable housing and easy access to bus lines and bike paths makes eco-living tangible in Pine Ridge.

■ Urban infill project on site of an abandoned hotel
■ Native, drought-tolerant landscaping
■ Eco-friendly and salvaged building materials  

5. Prairie Crossing
Grayslake, Illinois 

Prairie Crossing, a progressive, 359-unit, LEED-ND neighborhood, offers an elaborate alternative energy system and an advanced charter school.

■ Geothermal system, wind turbine and photovoltaic (PV) solar panels power and heat buildings.
■ Former waste site now serves as train station parking lot 
■ Certified organic commercial farm

6. Issaquah Highlands
Issaquah, Washington 

East of Seattle, Issaquah Highlands is an eco-minded community of more than 3,000 homes powered by multiple energy sources and constructed to Built Green’s 4-Star efficiency level.

■ Near High Street Retail Village, where all buildings meet LEED standards; schools and medical facilities onsite
■ Stormwater ponds and vegetated bioswales filter sediment and pollutants
■ Situated on 1,400 acres of preserved forestland; more than 25 parks and recreation areas

7. Mosier Creek
Mosier, Oregon 

Mosier Creek, a LEED Silver- and Earth Advantage-certified neighborhood with 22 homes and 12 apartments, has direct access to the historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, a 10-mile bike and pedestrian path.

■ PV and solar thermal in all units
■ Previously landfill site for Interstate 84 construction waste
■ Solar-heated saltwater pool

8. Kalahari Harlem
New York, New York 

Half of this community’s 250 homes were sold as affordable housing to long-term Harlem residents. Kalaharin Harlem houses a youth community center, a café and community gardens.

■ Onsite solar panels for public areas; 25 percent of the community’s energy is from renewable sources
■ Green rooftops with native and drought-resistant plants
■ Onsite Zipcars (car-sharing program) 

9. Garden Atriums of Poquoson
Poquoson, Virginia 

Garden Atriums of Poquoson features flooring made from recycled oak ship planks, HardiePlank exterior siding and metal roofs from recycled cars.

■ Net-zero homes featuring PV and closed-loop geothermal systems
■ Rainwater harvesting supplies 95 percent of landscape water needs.
■ Fruit orchard and chemical-free vegetable gardens on property; community composting site

10. Pringle Creek
Salem, Oregon 

Pringle Creek features a porous asphalt and pervious concrete street system for rainwater management and an onsite biodiesel co-op with 60 members.

■ Two restored greenhouses used as native plant conservatory; 80 percent of trees preserved; 100 fruit trees and 300 blueberry bushes planted
■ 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber
■ Geothermal heating and cooling system for 70 residential lots and all the Village Center commerical buildings


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