LEED Neighborhood Development Exam

I decided to kick off my trip to Greenbuild this year by first taking the LEED ND exam- the only LEED credential I had not yet earned. So, yesterday, before driving to Chicago, I took and passed the ND exam (hooray!). What I really wanted note on the blog, though, is a couple key points I learned about the LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating Systen while I was studying:

– LEED ND is open to projects of very diverse sizes. Minimum size is 2 buildings and the maximum size is unlimited, but recommended to be 320 acres or less

– LEED ND has some very prescriptive, mathematical requirements surrounding required population density, number of street intersections in and around the project and distance to available services and transit. In my opinion, these types of requirements actually make ND much more restrictive as far as what types/kinds of projects can be certified than the other LEED systems.

-LEED ND covers an extremely wide range of sustainability strategies ranging from the type and location of the site the the layout and services provided in the neighborhood to the individual buildings in the project.


15 thoughts on “LEED Neighborhood Development Exam

  1. Hi, Allison. Thanks for the info. I am preparing the ND exam and have been studying for a month. However, I’ve never taken any other tests before. Any advice for a newbie?

    Right now I feel a lot of numbers to remember, and a lot of interrelation among credits.


    1. It definitely is a lot about numbers and that can be very overwhelming. The exam did have quite a few calculations, but I felt that they were pretty intuitive calculations and they were fairly easy to complete as long as you knew the basic structure of the calculations. I think my best advice is what I tell my Green Associate students- when you’re studying, focus on understanding not memorization and when you’re taking the exam make sure to slow down and read every word of the question and answers- they like to throw little word tricks at you if you’re not careful.

      Everything you need to know for the exam is in the ND reference guide- good luck!


  2. This is a helpful blog, thank you. Allison, do you have any helpful web links that can be helpful or is it your opinion that a thorough study of the ND Study Guide is all you need? Also, can you identify the top 5 areas to focus on?

    Would studying Smart Growth be helpful or should I just stay focused on ND?

    Lastly, I heard through the net that the pass rate is 20-30%. Do you have an opinion on that?

    Your input is greatly appreciated. Thanks.



    1. Craig- I’m sure that studying Smart Growth would be very helpful in the long run of applying LEED ND, but for the exam, everything you need to know really is in the reference guide. Make sure you have the reference guide which is probably about 600 pages, not just the small study guide- there are many things in the reference guide about application and credit synergies that you won’t find in the study guide alone.
      I am actually a pretty big fan of the Green Building Education Services (GBES) practice exams for many of the LEED exams including this one if you’re looking for an added resource. If you use these exams, though, don’t worry too much if your scores are only in the high 60s to low 70s before the test- I was only averaging about a 68% on the practice tests the night before my exam and passed with plenty of room to spare. The practice exams from GBES tend to be a little bit harder than the actual exams.
      I really hesitate to try to identify 5 main areas to focus on, primarily because there is a very large pool of questions for the exam and you may get entirely different questions than I did. Overall, trying to really understand the intent of the prerequisites and credits and how the requirements attempt to ensure achievement of the intent will serve you very well. Also, for this rating system in particular (and LEED for Homes as an aside), getting a clear understanding of what is required as a prerequisite versus how to take those concepts further for points will really help your knowledge of how the system works and will be important in helping you keep the information you need to know for the exam straight.
      While none of us outside GBCI and USGBC know the real passing rates, I think 20-30% passing is too low. Based on years of experience with students taking these exams I have always speculated that they aim for around a 60% passing rate on all the exams. That’s, of course, merely an educated guess though.
      Good luck on your exam!


  3. Thank you very much Allison. Not only is the net a powerful tool, it also brings people together (you and I) that in previous generations would have never been able to touch each others lives.

    How do you use your LEED ND AP accreditation? Have you been able to apply it to your job skill set? I am a project manager for a civil engineering firm that focuses on land development. How useful would LEED ND be to me versus letting the planners seek that knowledge?

    Thank you again for your indepth response. I wish I could somehow repay you for taking time out of your day to write me.


    1. Personally, I don’t anticipate having any LEED ND projects in the near future. We have dozens of projects in other LEED rating systems, but I anticipate LEED ND will be slow to catch on. I have, however, found the concepts and principals contained in LEED ND to be helpful for me and my firm when it comes to some our projects involving large scale campus master plans or hospital master plans. I would also think it would be helpful for larger retail development and such, so if you do anything around those areas I could see it being beneficial for you as well.

      No need for repayment of any kind- I enjoy hearing about how others are using LEED and helping in any way I can!


  4. Hi Allison,
    Thanks for posting this info. One quick question for you: Do you think it would be reasonable to study for the LEEP AP ND exam using the ND Rating System document and avoid having to purchase the LEED ND Reference Guide? Or, is there material covered in the exam that is only described in the Reference Gudie and not in the Rating System?


    1. Matt- I have heard of some people passing the test using only the rating system document, so I guess that it is possible. For ND, though, there are quite a few calculations and implementation strategies that you will need to know for the test that are not contained in the raring system. I personally wouldn’t try to take it without the reference guide, but I’m not much of a gambler either…


  5. Hi Allison,

    Great post and follow-up comments on the LEED ND Rating System. I’ve registered for the test and have on hand both the Rating System (100+ pages) and the LEED ND Reference Guide (600 pages).

    I’m a big fan of GBES as well since I started learning about the LEED GA and it gave me a very good feel of how the LEED tests are structured. Not only does GBES maintain a fast and reliable customer service team, they amazed me by offering a generous free upgrade – a LEED ND specialty practice test (400 sample questions on a 90 day online pass). So I would highly recommend it to those who are attempting the LEED tests.

    MAtt – I would say that we can depend mostly on the rating system, but judging from the GBES sample questions, there were clues dropped that some of the details could only be found in the reference guide. My take is that it would be good to supplement the rating system (Download for May 2010 edition is available on USGBC website) with the reference guide as a reference (or at least to read through the 30 pages or so of ‘Introduction’ and especially the part on Exemplary Performance). It’s introduction contains many useful summary tables and comparison charts which cannot be found in the Rating System.

    If I find enough time before the test, I would definitely want to gain a deeper understanding by giving the reference guide a read-through as I agree with Allison that understanding the reasons and intent behind the pre-requisites and credits will give you fundamental knowledge and confidence. That is the best way to sail through and attempt the tricky questions. Tough I know, but it’s worth the effort in the long-run 🙂


  6. allison-i’m a city planner by background but am overseeing a building program where my employer is willing to pay for AP BD+C but not ND exam. i believe ND would be more applicable but would be open to BD+C if it covered ND issues and wasn’t a dramatic overkill in terms of prep required and unusable info for future. i’ve typically served as an owner’s PM on master planned land dev. projects. any opinion much appreciated! Ben


    1. Ben- given your description of what you do on a regular basis, I really think LEED ND is the way to go for you. LEED BD+C really doesn’t contain much at all about planning. There are a few strategies having to do with “sustainable sites” but they mostly deal with stormwater management, alternative transportation strategies and choosing an environmentally preferable site. I won’t say LEED BD+C would be of no value to you at all, but you are going to gain so much more from ND.


  7. Dear Allison,

    Last week I passed the LEED AP for Home with 186/200, Green Edu webinar was very helpful as well as the 500 exam simulation from GBES.

    Next I am going to study for LEED AP ND exam to finish the 5 specialties before LEED V4.

    Any recommendation about where I have to focus my effort, I purchased the Reference Guide but it seems very long and difficult, I need more illustration for ND, do you recommend any webinar or study guide.

    What is the advantage of earning the 5 specialties? Is the term of “Multiple LEED Specialty Credentials.” correct? Please advise…

    Please keep me posted for any LEED ND material.

    Yours faithfully,

    Haytham Mohamed. LEED AP BD+C, ID+C, O+M, Homes
    Multiple LEED Specialty Credentials.


  8. I am trying to take this exam before the format/content changes. I was planning on buying the LEED for Neighborhood Development Reference Guide and the GBES practice exams (they were great for the GA). Because I am buying the GBES practice exams I was going to opt out of buying the LEED for Neighborhood Development Study Guide. After reading the review on the USGBC website (http://www.usgbc.org/resources/study-bundle-nd-study-guide-and-reference-guide) it seems like the study guide is just a bunch of practice test. Can anyone confirm that or have suggestions of what study materials they found to be most helpful?

    Its really starting to add up but I want to make sure I have the appropriate study material so if I can skip the study guide that would be ideal. Also, is anyone aware if these study guides are available used at a lower cost?

    Thanks for all your help, this forum has been really helpful so far!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s