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Thornton Place – a Tale of Two LEED Ratings

The larger Thornton Place development in Northgate is made up of a multi-family housing building (which is also named Thornton Place) and a variety of other mixed use types. Thornton Place earned a Silver rating under the LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) rating system in 2009, but that certification didn’t capture and recognize the accomplishments throughout the site to create an environmentally-sensitive and community-centered development.

O’Brien & Company encouraged the project team to pursue the secondary certification to earn recognition for those elements, and provided technical assistance in navigating the new rating system as well as how it applied to this unique project. Because of O’Brien & Company’s experience with sustainable infrastructure, the firm was able to quickly zero in on the opportunities to get credit and provided language to translate good ideas from the design team into narratives for the LEED application. The larger site was awarded the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating this year.

Sample strategies included:

Smart Location and Linkage

  • The project earned more than a dozen points for having diverse services on-site, and near-by. In addition to housing, Thornton Place has several restaurants, a medical office and a movie theater.
  • The housing provided on the site is so close to jobs, transit, and other community amenities that residents will have not only convenient access to those amenities but a significantly smaller ecological footprint.
  • By locating in a brownfield instead of on ecologically-sensitive land, wetlands or in a floodplain, Thornton Place preserves other natural areas for wildlife habitat and recreation.

Neighborhood Pattern and Design

  • The design team laid out the Thornton Place site to create a compact development that made it easy for residents to walk across with minimal road crossings or other barriers. These same paths make Thornton Place welcoming and connected to the community.
  • Although the Northgate Transit Center is a short walk away, Thornton Place made an extra effort to connect visitors and residents to transit schedules by having them readily-accessible on-site, posted in the garage area near elevators and in the leasing office.
  • The LEED rating system recognizes the importance of meaningful community engagement and this was one area where Thornton Place excelled. The private development happened alongside efforts to daylight Thornton Creek—and better prevent stormwater pollution into the creek. Through open community meetings, design reviews and other outreach and involvement, community members were engaged throughout to help inform how Thornton Place could be re-imagined into a vibrant, healthy destination.
  • One of the great stories of collaboration at Thornton Place was in a synergy identified by having all the partners together. Thornton Place provides park and ride spaces which are shared between Metro transit riders and Thornton Place residents. Because they don’t need to park in the building at the same time, these spaces can be effectively shared, reduing the amount of overall space used for parking on-site.
  • The green belt that runs through the site does double-duty—as a park for residents to enjoy, and as a stormwater treatment facility, protecting water quality in Thornton Creek as well as downstream.

Green Infrastructure and Buildings

  • This credit category recognizes not only the presence of green buildings on a site, but the infrastructure and “in between” spaces that bring the whole thing together. Thornton Place received three points under Neighborhood Development for having buildings that were certified under LEED for New Construction.
  • Thornton Place received a significant number of points for exceptional construction waste management throughout the project site, achieving 94% diversion of wood, concrete and metal materials.
  • Because Thornton Place has both LEED buildings and the LEED for Neighborhood Development certification, many of the efforts to reduce construction waste and minimize the impact of construction on the site benefited both aspects of the project.

Learn more about the background on the project.

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