Creating a high-quality master plan that is back-checked through certification is a powerful way to set master plan aspirations and set the development up for long-term success. Certification brings several advantages to a master plan, not the least of which is positive sentiment among community stakeholders.

Within every neighborhood or district, there lies the opportunity to design innovative and scalable solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing city makers. Those challenges can be based on income, education, health, environmental challenges, climate change, and the changing urban landscape.

The right certification standard for a master plan can be used to overcome those challenges, and it can also provide a credible and reliable framework to organize performance metrics.

The chosen certification standard and rating system will require the developer to approve certain design decisions, so it’s important that the rating system sync with the project vision. The rating system will also be of keen interest to the project’s community stakeholders, and the right choice will create an opportunity in the court of public opinion. The last thing a developer wants to do is to lower expectations after a sustainability commitment has been made.

The most common pitfall comes if the developer chooses a rating system that doesn’t match their values and business needs.

Three steps to choosing the right master planning certification strategy

There are three steps to choosing the right certification for your master plan: identify project values, define the key performance indicators in the context of those values, and then select a certification strategy that best measures those KPIs.


1. Identify Values

The first step is to identify the values and vision of the project stakeholders. Without this, the long timeline for executing master plans will create implementation challenges. Don’t look to the certification to drive project decisions; the project values drive decisions. A third-party certification is merely the proof-point and guide that the project team relies on.

Mapping strategies to sustainability values will deliver more endurance than mapping strategies to technical trends or community design trends, for example.

To learn about Paladino’s approach to values-driven sustainability, read our white paper here.

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2. Establish the vision

To get the commitments right, the master plan must reflect broader stakeholder perspectives, and must also accommodate the realities of the many disciplines involved with the development.

Because the integrated design process is being driven by values, the process has the potential to unearth opportunities to achieve greater outcomes than a process that isn’t rooted in stakeholder values. Through Paladino’s solution, Upshot, we can provide the following advantages to the integrated design process:

  • Define the values that the owner is trying to achieve beyond first cost
  • Monetize intangible benefits
  • Model a project the right way the first time
  • Visualize tangible/intangible options in the decision-making process
  • Increase the project’s value to the owner and its stakeholders

Upshot allows you to evaluate multivariate sustainability strategies and confirm which have the best outcome for the values that you identified. It’s critical to evaluate strategies with a wider lens of values than a singular focus on cost, given the long-term endurance that is required of the master plan.

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3. SelEct the certification track

There are four leading third-party certifications that are relevant to a master plan:

  • LEED Neighborhood Development (LEED ND)
  • Living Community Challenge (LCC)
  • EcoDistricts
  • WELL Communities

Each rating system addresses sustainability in different ways. Our team is always happy to walk architects, developers, and real estate owners through thier options in detail.


Master plans are only as good as their execution.

Bring in the right sustainability consultant to guide the master plan sustainability vision. Consultants can set up for success by understanding and anticipating challenges and coming up with proactive solutions

Here are three case studies about of our master planning certification projects:

Does your Master Plan have what it takes for the long haul? Download our new e-book to learn about the power of STORY in a sustainable master plan project.

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