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LEED Innovation Credit: Design for Health

As LEED consultants for Via Verde/The Green Way, Bright Power and the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) worked closely with the project team of co-developers Jonathan Rose Companies and The Phipps Houses Group, Dattner  Architects and Grimshaw Architects to develop a successful LEED Innovation in Design (ID) credit: Design for Health Through Increased Physical Activity. Design elements for the credit were developed by Bright Power in conjunction with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Design and Construction (building on the example of Riverside Health Center, 1100 Architect) to implement New York City's Active Design Guidelines (

Via Verde rendering


The Design for Health ID credit promotes increased physical activity through building design. The credit builds on existing elements in LEED that address health issues by rewarding designs that increase regular intentional and incidental physical activity. Strategies include:

  • Design buildings so that stairs are easily accessible, visible, safe, and attractive to users.
  • Design buildings to improve access to open space and/or exercise facilities for both adults and children.



Credit Details:

In order to earn the Design for Health credit, a project must satisfy at least 20 of 29 (~70%) design elements - achievable strategies for providing measurable improvement in physical activity opportunities and quality of life for residents. A number of the elements serve dual functions of improving health and reducing energy use (e.g. from elevators, transport, TV or computer use).


Via Verde/The Green Way satisfies 21 out of 29 elements including:

  • Prominent and accessible stairwells with ample daylight to encourage use.
  • Signs posted at elevators that encourage use of the stairs.
  • Rooftop community garden providing opportunities for on-site, outdoor recreation.
  • Outdoor recreation areas and playground equipment for children.
  • On-site community exercise facilities.

NYC Stairwell Prompts

The centerpiece of Via Verde/The Green Way’s design is its ring of green roofs, providing environmental and health benefits by using native and adapted species, reducing heat island effect, providing open space, and reducing stormwater runoff. The project team’s focus on promoting health and fitness helped guide the design to ensure resident access to most of the roofs, providing a large community gardening area, playground elements, child-friendly courtyard design, and on-site exercise facilities. While the community garden roof areas provide less raw vegetated area than a larger, extensive green roof, they improve opportunities for outdoor community activity, which is so often lacking in urban residential projects.


In NYC, the majority of adults and 43% of elementary-school children are overweight or obese. Physical inactivity and poor diets are second only to tobacco as the leading causes of premature deaths in the U.S. In this context, building design has a great potential to improve health: research shows that as little as two minutes of stair-climbing per day can burn enough calories to help prevent the average annual weight gain in U.S. adults, and climbing 20-34 floors per week, (or 3-5 floors per day) has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke.


Bright Power served as the primary contact with USGBC, compiling and submitting credit documentation, corresponding and providing clarifications to the initial design review. The US Green Building Council conducts a thorough review for any proposed ID credits, and requires that credits satisfy the following:

  • They are comprehensive – that is, they involve more than one strategy or technology. LEED does not grant ID points for installing a single new or innovative technology, but looks for a set of strategies that combine for an innovative project.
  • They demonstrate quantitative improvements. In the case of the Design for Health Credit, we worked with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to compile reference materials.




Samples from the actual LEED submission are posted here as a reference for future projects interested in the Design for Health credit, or developing a similar ID credit in a LEED project.


ID Credit Matrix

Design for Health Narrative

Quantitative Benefits Matrix

Design for Health - Reference List

Stairwell Elevation

Green Roof drawing



More Information:

Jonathan Rose Companies - Via Verde/The Green Way

NYC Dept. of Design and Construction -  Active Design Guidelines

USGBC website - Green Health and Physical Activity

BBC News - Building a healthier and greener New York (September 22, 2010)