Identifying previously developed sites

Green Building Team on June 28, 2020

Under LEED v4 Design and Construction rating systems, several credits require the project team to determine whether the land has been previously developed. The Getting Started section of the LEED v4 BD+C Reference Guide (under Maintaining Consistency in the Application, Previous Development) includes clarifications about what constitutes previous development:

Previously developed land is defined as “land that has been altered by paving, construction, and/or land use that would typically have required regulatory permitting to have been initiated (alterations may exist now or in the past).

Land that is not previously developed and landscapes altered by current or historical clearing or filling, agricultural or forestry use, or preserved natural area use are considered undeveloped land. The date of previous development permit issuance constitutes the date of previous development, but permit issuance in itself does not constitute previous development.”

Lands without buildings present can sometimes be difficult to assess. Parklands, in particular, can be confusing; improved parks with highly manicured landscaping and constructed features like playgrounds are considered previously developed. However, it is important to remember that land that has only been cleared or graded, without additional improvements, is not considered previously developed. Similarly, land maintained in a natural state, even if there are minor features like walking paths or mowed grass, are not considered previously developed.

Project teams should also take note of the difference between a previously disturbed site versus a previously developed site. A previously disturbed site is a site that has been disturbed in any way, by grading, compacting, clearing, or previous development. Remember that not all previously disturbed sites can be considered previously developed. The term “previously developed” is used within the Location and Transportation category, whereas “previous disturbed” is used with the Sustainable Sites category; each term reflects the intent of the credits in those categories.