Wednesday, September 08, 2010

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Something has gone up 15 times in the last 5 years. And it’s GOOD!

Can you guess what it might be?

NPR Reports that LEED Certification Takes the Lead

Green building now accounts for nearly one-third of new construction in the United States, up from 2 percent in 2005, according to McGraw-Hill Construction.

The key to being green is being LEED certified. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is the green building rating system developed by the US Green Building Council in 1998 to encourage environmental awareness.

Getting LEED certification can add about 4.7 percent to the cost of a project, according to studies by the University of Michigan. But for many businesses, getting LEED certification is worth the expense, says Andy Hoffman, a professor of sustainable enterprise at Michigan.

"They created a cachet around the LEED certification," he says. "And they got people to want to do this as a marketing pitch — and I think that was really a stroke of genius to get a rather inertial industry to start to shift."

Source: National Public Radio, Franklyn Cater (09/07/2010)

Some definitions and links to more information:

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

LEED for Neighborhood Development integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.

Environmental design is the process of addressing surrounding environmental parameters when devising plans, programs, policies, buildings, or products.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

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New Urbanist Projects Abound

Growing numbers of Boomers and Millennials are becoming aware of and are seeking out alternatives to the mono-cultures of uniform, uninspired product types and single price points arranged as separated, single-purpose developments. We have become used to places where we only work, places where we only shop, places where we only live in our apartment or places where we only live in our single family house (all about the same size and price range of course). We have become used to the private care being required to get from one “mono-pod” to the other for every single human need.

But there IS another way. All across the county (and in many other parts of the world as well) a wide variety of new urbanist projects have been and are being built to offer us that better way. The variety of innovative types of new urban development responds to the motivations of both the Boomers and the Millennials in unique ways.

Some of the alternatives that new urbanism offers include:

Adaptive Reuse of existing structures: Example - old red brick warehouses converted into retail, offices, apartments above first floor retail like Tip Top

Redevelopment: Examples - Midtown Crossing and Aksarben Village

Urban Infill: Development of vacant parcels that were passed over

Greyfields: Redevelopment of abandoned or under-utilized shopping centers and “ghost boxes” (a.k.a. defunct “big box“ stores)

Brownfields: Redevelopment of industrial sites: Examples - Riverfront Place and the Rows at SOMA

Greenfields: Conservation neighborhoods and new traditional neighborhoods (TNDs) usually located on the urban edge: Example - Leytham

TODs: Transit oriented developments that take advantage of locations near transit such as commuter or light rail, for example, to increase density and mix uses. There are no examples in Omaha (yet).

New urbanist projects are compact, mixed use, and walkable with vibrant civic spaces. If you are interested in exploring further, New Urban News has created a very useful tool which sorts and categorizes many new urbanist projects. You can search by state or by project type. Just click here:

Be sure to see the projects listed under Nebraska. My personal favorite, of course, is Leytham, the Omaha area's first new greenfield traditional neighborhood development (TND). If you have not visited the Leytham website, I invite you to do so, and be sure to register on the site to receive updates in the Leytham e-newsletter.

Happy browsing . . . .

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Leytham Launches New Website

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Leytham Has a New Website

Just click here, or go to to learn all that is new at Leytham, Omaha's first greenfield New Traditional Neighborhood.

Here are just a few of the new Leytham site's highlights to get you started:

Be sure to bookmark the new Leytham website so you can return to it often to explore its content and to see what is new as we continue to create Omaha's New Traditional Neighborhood.

And don't forget to register yourself or a friend to receive periodic email updates from Leytham.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Winner of the Congress for the New Urbanism's Video Contest

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The annual Congress of the New Urbanism is meeting next month in Denver for its seventeenth congress. The annual Congress for the New Urbanism is the nation’s leading forum dedicated to advancing urbanism and promoting alternatives to sprawl. Click here for the CNU17 conference website.

New Urbanism is an urban design and development movement dedicated to implementing community-oriented principles of traditional town and city planning in contrast to the prevailing system of formless sprawl.

New Urbanist traditional neighborhood developments (called "TNDs", for short), like Omaha's first new greenfield traditional neighborhood development, Leytham, are compact and walkable, provide a diverse range of housing options, encourage a rich mix of uses, and provide welcoming public spaces.

As part of the Congress's program, a video contest produced this winning entry called, "Built to Last." The 3-minute video asks the question“What’s the greatest threat to our planet?” The creators' answer is not cow flatulence, but rather the ubiquitous cul-de-sac. The sometimes humorous and alway compelling video shows how reimagining our cities and suburbs to be sustainable and walkable will cut carbon emissions, commutes and calories. When it comes to saving the planet, "what we build is the greatest threat…or the greatest hope," say the filmmakers in "Built to Last."

Monday, May 12, 2008

This Can Not Be Surprising . . .

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The smaller, better home is becoming more and more popular

In a February survey of potential home buyers by the National Association of Home Builders, 60 percent said they would rather have a smaller house with more amenities than vice versa. "In the past, people would say 'Give me space and I'll add the features later,' " says Gopal Ahluwalia, the NAHB's vice president of research. Newly built houses will have layouts that can "live bigger" than their square footage would suggest, with rooms that can do double duty, experts say.

You read here in my postings of May 23rd and July 6th, last, of this trend. If you missed those posts you may wish to read them now. Smaller lives better, greener and more cost effectively and reflects the changing demographics of our society.

9% of buyers are single men, 22% are single women. 60% of all home buyers have no children under 18.

Couple those facts with the trend toward smaller family sizes, and you get compelling reasons why smaller, better homes will become more and more popular.

Yours for the smaller, better home,


Friday, March 21, 2008

An Incentive for Going Green . . .

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This is a welcome sign . . . .

Countrywide Home Loans, a division of Countrywide Bank, FSB, has announced the retail launch of its Green Incentive Program, which will initially be available to qualified homebuyers in thirteen states, including: Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The program provides an interest rate reduction of .125 percent on a Countrywide loan used to purchase a new home that is built meeting recognized green and energy efficient standards.

The Countrywide Green Incentive Program's interest rate reduction applies to newly constructed homes that meet third-party, certified standards of recognized green building programs, including Energy Star, Earth Advantage, LEED for Homes and Built Green programs of local home builder associations, as well as the National Association of Home Builder's Green Building program.

This 1/8 th of a point in interest will save the homeowner with a $200,000, 30 year loan $1,911.60 over the ten years the average homeowner is now staying in his/her home. These savings when added to the energy and maintenance savings of building green, make going green even more financially attractive. And, of course, saving some money is not the only (or even the prime) motivator impelling more and more people to build green.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Next Slum?

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A Provocative Thesis from Someone Not Unqualified* to Provoke Us:

Is THIS the Next Slum?

The universal definition of a McMansion is a house quite a bit larger than any one you'd want to live in.

Chris Leinberber has a written a very provocative essay in this month's (March 2008) issue of "The Atlantic." Leinberger concludes that in 25 years American cities may look very different from the way they look now, with vibrant urban cores surrounded by suburbs where the former McMansions have been broken into flats into which multiple families of the the poor have been crowded.

Looking beyond the current subprime mortgage crisis, Leinberger writes “a structural change is under way in the housing market--a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work. It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes. And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.”

In support of his thesis Leinburger cites the work of Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. Nelson has looked carefully at trends in American demographics, construction, house prices, and consumer preferences. In 2006, using recent consumer research, housing supply data, and population growth rates, he modeled future demand for various types of housing. The results were bracing: Nelson forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes . . . by 2025—that’s roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today." Just imagine the implications of such an over-supply . . . .

This likely scenario, Mr. Leinberger writes, is a result of “the pendulum swinging back toward urban living,” thanks to a set of economic, social, and demographic trends which you can read about in the essay. "Many Americans, meanwhile, became disillusioned with the sprawl and stupor that sometimes characterize suburban life. . . . Most Americans now live in single-family suburban houses that are segregated from work, shopping, and entertainment; but it is urban life, almost exclusively, that is culturally associated with excitement, freedom, and diverse daily life." Clearly, Leinberger does not believe that walkable urbanity will be for every one, but he applauds the greater choices that people will have as we build a greater variety of housing types in denser, mixed-use settings.

Whether Mr. Leinberger has described the exact vision of the future is not the main question and should not defocus us into argument with him on the finer points of his thesis. Rather, we should be asking ourselves what are the implications of the key concerns he has raised, even if his predictions come only partially true? We need to know if much of what we've been building over the last half century is destined to decline or even decay. We know how to do better now. When the next generations ask us why we made so many bad buildings in so many bad places, what will we say?

*Christopher B. Leinberger, a land use strategist and developer, is a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. He focuses on research and practice that help transform traditional and suburban downtowns and other places that provide “walkable urbanism” Leinberger is also a Professor of Practice and Director of the Graduate Real Estate Development Program at the University of Michigan. This program trains the next generation of real estate developers in the building of sustainable walkable urban places. Mr. Leinberger is also a founding partner of Arcadia Land Company, a New Urbanism development firm dedicated to land stewardship and building a sense of community. His partners are Robert Davis, the developer of Seaside, Florida, and Joe Duckworth, who has run two Builder 100 home building companies and was the National Home Builder of the Year in 1992. Arcadia Land has developments in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, a 1,400-acre development in Independence, Mo., a joint venture with Forest City Enterprises, and was the catalytic developer for the revitalization of downtown Albuquerque, N.M. See

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Leytham Life Slogan?

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Leytham is not a conventional subdivision. It is not a development as we have come to know that term. It is much more than just a real estate project. It is a new neighborhood where people will work, learn, play, shop and, of course, live. Since Leytham embodies so many of the aspects of life, the idea of Leytham can best be summed up as "Leytham Life."

Click below for the next Leytham Life marketing tag line.

Leytham Life Slogan Generator

Once at the Slogan Generator, you can click on "Generate My Slogan" over and over again to get new tag lines. If you like one of them, let me know.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Things are bad and they're getting worse"

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What cost $78.2 Billion Dollars (in 2005), took 4.2 Billion Hours and wasted 2.9 Billion Gallons of gasoline?

Traffic congestion, that's what . . . according to the Texas Traffic Institute’s "2007 Urban Mobility Report" released this week.

"Things are bad and they're getting worse," says Alan Pisarski, a transportation expert and the author of "Commuting in America."

On the way to finding one of those 11 parking stalls per family (see last week's posting here), average driver in 437 U.S. urban areas (and all of his/her passengers) spent 38 hours locked up in traffic congestion. This wasted 26 gallons of gasoline, and cost $710. By comparison, in 1982 the average annual delay was 14 hours, consumed 9 gallons of gasoline and cot $260 (in constant 2005 dollars.)

Here's a list of cities where the institute found the worst traffic jams, along with the number of hours in a year drivers spent stuck behind the wheel:

Large Cities

Los Angles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, 72 hours
San Francisco-Oakland, 60
Washington, DC-VA-MD, 60
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, 58
Houston, 56
Detroit, 54
Miami, 50
Phoenix, 48
Chicago, 46
New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT, 46
Boston, 46
Seattle, 45
Philadelphia, NJ-DE_MD, 38

Medium Cities

San Diego, 57 hours
San Jose, Calif., 54
Orlando, Fla., 54
Denver-Aurora, Colo., 50
Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., 49
Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., 45
Baltimore, Md., 44
Minneapolis, St. Paul, 43
Indianapolis, Ind, 43
Sacramento, Calif., 41
Las Vegas, 39
San Antonio, Texas., 39
Portland, Ore., 38
Columbus, Ohio, 33
St. Louis, 33

But, what about Omaha? What about our "20 minute city?" According to the study, the average driver in Omaha wasted 25 hours in traffic congestion and in doing so, wasted 15 gallons of fuel. What if you add all that up? In Omaha alone, the study's authors conclude, in 2005 we collectively wasted 8,784,000 hours and 5,344,000 million gallons of gas for a combined "all in cost" of $154,000,000. What was YOUR share?

To check out the study, go here:

So while you are stuck in traffic on your quest for your next parking stall, just think about it for a bit, and consider the benefits of the walkable, mixed use residential neighborhood.


Source: "2007 Urban Mobility Report," Texas Transportation Institute (09/2007)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Your New Urban Factoid(s) of the Day

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"Do we need this much parking space?"

Purdue University researchers surveyed the total area devoted to parking in a midsize Midwestern county and found that parking spaces outnumbered resident drivers 3-to-1 and outnumbered resident families 11-to-1. The researchers found the total parking area to be larger than 1,000 football fields, or covering more than two square miles.

Source: Purdue University News (09/11/2007)

"Even I was surprised by these numbers," said Bryan Pijanowski, the associate professor of forestry and natural resources who led the study in Purdue's home county of Tippecanoe. "I can't help but wonder: Do we need this much parking space?"

The Purdue University News article goes on to note that large churches and "big-box" retailers . . . often feature parking lots that take up more than twice the area of their buildings . . . .

“Parking lots at big-box stores and mega-churches are rarely filled," Pijanowski said. A different approach to development planning could mitigate the monetary and environmental costs associated with parking areas, he said.

"In many areas of the world, particularly Europe, cities were planned prior to automobiles, and many locations are typically within walking distance," Pijanowski said. "This is just one different way to plan that has certain advantages."

"People can help by first realizing that our land is not unlimited and that we need to use it prudently," Pijanowski said. "They can seek a lifestyle that requires less automobile use.”

Yours for the walkable residential mixed use neighborhood that does not require 11 parking spaces per family,