The benefits of LEED Neighborhood Development extend far beyond energy and water saving benefits. Studies by Cornell University’s environmental and developmental psychologist, Gary Evans, show that the way neighborhoods are designed can have a large impact on children’s development. Evans found that noise level, overcrowding, and housing and neighborhood quality all have as significant an impact on a child’s development as relationships with parents and peers. Noise and housing/neighborhood quality are the two variables that can be controlled by LEED Neighborhood Development.
The most common noises to which children are exposed are the noises coming from transportation, music, and other people. These variables are controlled by neighborhood design. Evans found that even low levels of noise, below the threshold for hearing damage, can effect reading abilities, cognitive development, physiological indicators, and motivational tasks. What this means is, if a neighborhood is located near a loud airport, for instance, it is likely that the children living in the neighborhood and attending a nearby school will have reading delays in their development. Planning a LEED ND project should take noise concerns into account since noise pollution is usually related to air pollution as well. If the neighborhood is designed to be more pedestrian and mass transit focused, cutting down on traffic and traffic noise in the area, there will be less noise pollution and air pollution coming from vehicles.
Housing and Neighborhood Quality
The physical characteristics of neighborhoods that can significantly influence a child’s socioemotional development include: residential instability, housing quality, noise, crowding, toxic exposure, quality of municipal services, retail services, recreational opportunities, including natural setting, street traffic, accessibility of transportation, and the physical quality of both educational and health facilities. Effects of these factors can include cognitive, social, emotion, biological, learning, and language outcomes. The findings also confirm that exposure to natural settings have a therapeutic effect on children allowing for exercise as well as engagement in social interactions. It is important to design neighborhoods to comply with Indoor Air Quality credit 8: Daylight and Views to maximize the benefits of natural settings as well as Sustainable Sites credit 2: Development Density and Community Connectivity. Choosing Option 2: Community Connectivity and ensuring that one of the basic services located within a half mile of the neighborhood is a park, will benefit childhood development by incorporating nature into children’s daily lives.
If environmental conservation is not typically your concern, consider designing a LEED ND project for the benefit of the development of the local children. Childhood is the most malleable time in a person’s life; everything in a child’s physical environment has the potential to impact his or her development for better or for worse. Living in a LEED certified neighborhood has environmental and emotional and intellectual developmental benefits; it is a win-win situation.
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