I live about 10 miles as the crow flies from Washington, D.C. in Rockville, Maryland. About 10 years ago my wife and I bought our first home in the neighborhood of Twinbrook, a pleasant place of modestly-priced Cape Cods built in the early 1950's. The main reason we moved here was the Metro station located within walking distance, which quickly and easily conveys me to my office in D.C. so that I don't ever have to fight the region's notorious traffic.
I love the charm and convenience of my neighborhood. Besides the nearby Metro, we're within close proximity to retail shops and restaurants, just one metro stop away from downtown Rockville, a block from my son's elementary school (Go Twinbrook Tigers!), surrounded by parks and biking trails, and amongst a canopy of mature trees (none better than the two 100+ year old Silver Maples in my backyard).
Lately there's been a lot of construction around the Metro and I must confess that although I've been a bit wary, I really haven't paid close attention to the redevelopment taking place. That's why I was so relieved and delighted to learn from my colleague Kaid Benfield -- NRDC's resident "Smart Growth" expert -- that the project underway happens to be the first planned development in the Washinton region that is certified under LEED for Neighborhood Development.
LEED, which stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" is essentially a standard for environmentally-friendly or "green" building. I'm proud to say that NRDC invented and continues to co-sponsor LEED-ND, which is the specific rating system that integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into neighborhood design. Earning LEED certification means that a development's location and design meet accepted high levels of environmentally responsible, sustainable development.
With the new Twinbrook Commons project, my neighbors and I can look forward to a 26-acre, mixed-use, walkable development adjacent to the Twinbrook Metro -- now basically a wasteland of faded low-rise buildings and vacant lots. According to Kaid, the development's plan qualified under NRDC's pilot program, which rates projects in three major categories: location & linkage; neighborhood pattern & design; and green features. The best part is that transit-oriented development like that happening at the Twinbrook station has been shown to generate only half the driving and associated carbon emissions of an otherwise comparable development.
When I look at the before (or "now") photo compared to the developer's concept of what is to come, I can't help but feel lucky that my decision a decade ago to live close to mass transit is about to pay off in more ways than I ever could have imagined. When the project is complete, folks should come see the place. Twinbrook is, after all, just a short ride on the Redline from D.C.!