Prerequisites/Mandatory Measures- 2
Minimum Points – 5
Maximum Points - 22

This category focuses on minimizing or eliminating adverse affects on water and land. 14 of the possible 22 points in this category deal with water-related issues, which is indicative of the high importance placed upon it in the rating system.

1. Put erosion control measures into place during construction, but as erosion is not usually an issue in an urban renovation, or even an urban new build for that matter, this criteria is easily met.
2. Do not introduce invasive plants into the landscape. Invasive plants vary by region. The easiest thing to do is to use only local/native plants, however not all non-native species are considered invasive so it is possible to use non-native plants and still meet this prerequisite; check the US Department of Agriculture Invasive Species Information Center.  

The possible points in this category are divided into 6 sub-categories:

Site Stewardship (maximum 1 point) guidelines seek to minimize long-term environmental damage to the building lot during the construction phase with a focus on eliminating erosion and soil compaction.

Landscaping (maximum 7 points) guidelines focus on minimizing water consumption and synthetic chemical use by specifying the use of noninvasive and drought-tolerant plants, and/or the reduction of irrigation by at least 20%.

Local Heat Island Effect (maximum 1 point) guidelines strive to reduce the phenomenon that urban and suburban temperatures are hotter than nearby rural areas, sometimes by as much as 2 to 10°F (1 to 6°C). (see the EPA Information sheet on Heat Island effect).   Elevated temperatures can increase cooling loads and consequently increase peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution levels, and heat-related illness and mortality. The guidelines deal with the placement of trees and plantings to shade hardscapes (sidewalks, driveways etc.), and the use of lightly colored or reflective materials for hardscapes.

Surface Water Management (maximum 7 points) guidelines deal with minimizing erosion and runoff from the home site. Some credits deal with landscaping which is relevant to a lesser extent in urban environments. Credits dealing with the management of roof runoff is applicable and require either permanent storm water controls such as:

i. vegetated swale (essentially a shallow channel covered with thick vegetation used to convey stormwater runoff and not usually applicable in an urban environment due to space constraints), or

ii. on-site rain garden (a planted depression in a garden that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff from impervious areas like roofs, sidewalks and driveways, thus keeping water out of the storm sewers or, in the case of Brooklyn and NYC, the waste sewers), or

iii. dry well or rainwater cistern (an underground structure that disposes of unwanted stormwater by dissipating it into the ground), or

iv. “green roof” (“vegetated roof”) covering at least 50% - 100% of the roof area

or generally require that the entire landscape design be engineered to reuse water.

Nontoxic Pest Control (maximum 2 points) guidelines aim to minimize the need for poisons for controlling insects, rodents and pests. The measures deal with keeping wood away from the soil, eliminating or sealing all cracks, joints and entry points by using caulk or metal or plastic fasteners or dividers or screens, planning for mature plants to be at least 24 inches from the house, and taking specially defined precautions in moderately heavy and heavy termite infested areas, which includes urban areas like New York City, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco.

Compact Development (maximum 4 points) encourages building homes closer together to promote community development, transportation efficiency and walkability. Urban areas are automatically in the Very High Density category and ought to receive all 4 possible points.

What does this mean for brownstone and row-house renovation: The guidelines in the Landscaping, Heat Island Effect and Surface Water Management subcategories above are directly applicable in an urban environment. Planting for shade, and the use of green roofs have a two-fold benefit because they help reduce cooling loads and, by eliminating hardscapes, they also help with the Surface Water Management subcategory because it results in exposing more soil to the air which in turn allows for the absorption of more storm water into the soil, consequently putting less strain on the storm water sewers. Stormwater runoff is a particularly difficult situation in Brooklyn where, after only one inch of rain, the storm sewers overflow and mix with the human sewage which then runs untreated into the river and harbor. Even opting for a stone patio on a gravel bed, instead of solid concrete, will allow storm water to seep into the ground and be kept out of the stormwater sewers. Nontoxic Pest Control is also a relevant subcategory in brownstone planning -- we know from experience that termites can attack brownstones! As noted above, being in the middle of a dense urban area should result in a brownstone receiving all possible points in the Compact Development subcategory. Stay tuned for our Upcoming Article on Green Roofs.