Our picks for America's best green housing developments emphasize communities working toward sustainability by incorporating green building, energy efficiency and reuse of previously developed land. Several are enrolled in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) programs such as LEED for Neighborhoods (LEED-ND) or LEED for Homes. Our 10 favorites are listed alphabetically by city.
1. Austin, Texas:
The old municipal airport—just minutes from the University of Texas and downtown—is a 711-acre redevelopment with homes, shops, businesses, restaurants, an elementary school and parks. Austin Energy is certifying all buildings to high efficiency.
• Green options for homes, including tankless water heaters, programmable thermostats, solar panels
• Graywater reused for low-water, native landscaping
• 25 percent of housing for lower-income owners or renters
• Hangars reused as info centers and possible entertainment venue
• Anticipated LEED Platinum status for Dell Children’s Medical Center and Ronald McDonald House
2. Chapel Hill, North Carolina:
With 98 residential condominiums, street-level retail, renewable building materials, planted roofs, and solar hot water and electricity, Greenbridge is a downtown revitalization project promoting human and ecological health.
• Rainwater runoff system
• 75 percent of demolition and construction materials from site reused and recycled
• Carbon emissions offset through renewable energy investments
• Affordable workforce housing
• Easy mass-transit access
• On-site Zipcar (car-sharing program) fleet
• Sustainable educational learning center
3. Denver: Stapleton
A former airport site, Stapleton is the largest urban-infill redevelopment project in the United States, with 4,700 acres of reclaimed land just 10 minutes from downtown. Six million tons of runway concrete were reused to make bike paths and bridges. The development is in the LEED-ND pilot program.
• 1,100 acres of parks and open space
• 20 percent of rental apartments and 10 percent of for-sale housing allotted as affordable housing
• All homes Energy Star certified
• Prairie habitat restoration
• Extensive eco-restoration of Westerly Creek
• Some homes include solar panels
4. Grayslake, Illinois:
Committed to minimizing its impact on the environment, this suburban community preserves 60 percent of its 677 acres as prairie, wetlands and organic farmland. It also has 359 single-family houses, 36 condos, many shops, a café and commuter trains to Chicago. Prairie Crossing’s Station Village is in the LEED-ND pilot program.
• Geothermal-powered school with LEED classrooms
• Green-built houses constructed under U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program
• Energy Star condos and mixed-use buildings
• Historic buildings rehabilitated: farmhouse, schoolhouse, dairy barn (now a community center)
5. Issaquah, Washington:
This 2,240-acre urban village east of Seattle in the Cascade Mountain foothills balances green space and trails with homes, townhouses, multifamily buildings and an elementary school. The community is building 3.9 million square feet of LEED-certified commercial and retail space.
• Built Green 4-Star level with Energy Star certification on all new homes since 2006
• LEED Silver community center and firehouse
• Vegetation on salon/spa green roof reduces rainwater runoff
• On-site rock and concrete recycling for construction
• Area wetlands protection
6. North Charleston, South Carolina:
Navy Yard at Noisette
Located on the former Charleston Naval Base, this 340-acre brownfield redevelopment will house 7,000 families and become part of the city’s sustainable urban revitalization. All structures are built to a minimum LEED Silver standard.
• Mixture of housing price points
• Some solar and geothermal energy offered
• Green roof and bioswales connected to water retention area to control stormwater flooding and improve water quality
• Within walking distance of public transit systems, schools, civic centers
• Native, chemical-free landscaping
7. Portland, Oregon:
This high-density, low- to moderate-incoming housing neighbor- hood in northeast Portland is being developed by a nonprofit that helps renters become homeowners. It will have 53 single-family houses and condos that qualify for LEED for Homes and LEED-ND programs.
• Rehabilitation of existing farmhouse
• Adjacent to mass transit
• All units Energy Star certified
• Stormwater system to keep water from overflowing into river
• High-efficiency fireplaces that function as primary heat source
• Recycled-content building materials
• Paints that emit few volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
8. Salem, Oregon: Pringle Creek Community
Located on 32 acres of redeveloped land, this community integrates 130 carbon-neutral/net-zero-energy residences—including single- and multi-family houses, cottages, row houses and apartments—with LEED-certified retail, work spaces, parks and community buildings.
• Geothermal heating in 70 homes, commercial and mixed-use buildings
• Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber
• Green restoration of historic buildings and greenhouses
• Porous asphalt street system for managing rainwater
• Onsite biodiesel co-op; community flex car (car-sharing)
• Creek and wetlands restoration; tree preservation plan
• Community garden and orchards
9. Seattle: High Point
This neighborhood replaces a rundown public-housing project. The new High Point mixes subsidized and market-rate homes and includes a health clinic, library, grocery store and parks. Its natural drainage system has native plants and swales that filter and divert stormwater to protect a salmon stream.
• Porous streets and sidewalks
• All homes meet Built Green and Energy Star standards
• Reused old-growth cedar and fir
• Preservation of 100 mature trees
• Emphasis on front porches and narrow streets for enhanced community interaction
10. Staten Island, New York: Markham Gardens
This 13-acre, 290-unit revitalization of World War II public-housing includes 240 apartments and duplexes for low-income renters and 50 affordable housing units. It’s on track for LEED Silver certification.
• Low-VOC paints and low-emitting cabinets, countertops, carpet, carpet pad and insulation for healthy indoor air
• All homes Energy Star compliant
• Ultra low-flow faucets and showerheads
• Construction preserves many mature trees
• Native species landscaping and shading