Is there a specific LEED definition as it relates to whether a project would be considered in an urban, suburban, or rural location?
It's not in the Reference Guide.
I think it pretty much would be common sense or based on your land use regulations.
You might also want to email USGBC to see what they say.
The use of the term "urban" in the Reference Guide seems to bea more populated area as demonstrated by the Density and Connectivity credit (i.e. 60,000 sf/ac OR 1/2 mile...). But, more to your question and inthe absence of a more definitive explanation from the USGBC, this is cute, per Wikipedia:
"In the United States there are two categories of urban area. The term urbanized area denotes an urban area of 50,000 or more people. Urban areas under 50,000 people are called urban clusters. Urbanized areas were first delineated in the United States in the 1950 census, while urban clusters were added in the 2000 census. There are 1371 United States Urban Areas & Urban Clusters with more than 10,000 people.
The US Census Bureau defines an urban area as: "Core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile (386 per square kilometer) and surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile (193 per square kilometer)."
However,a review of SSc8 defines the criteria of the 4 LZ zones as such (all per last US Census):
LZ 1: Dark (Park and Rural settings): less than 200 people/square mile
LZ 2: Low (Residential areas): 200-3,000 people/square mile
LZ 3: Medium (Commercial/Industrial/High Density Residential): 3,000-<100,000 people/square mile
LZ 4:High (Major City Centers/Entertainment Districts): >100,000 people/square mile
I suppose I wouldthen define "urban" as an LZ2 Low zone; density of1,000 people/square mile? Or would I define it as an LZ 3 Medium zone: density of 50,000 people/square mile? Or, per the US Census, urban areas are those which have a minimum population of 50,000 p/sm? Or did they follow this up with a population of at least 5,000 p/sm?
Boy, am I confused now! Again, the USGBC leaves one spending too much time trying to define"ghost" parameters.
The regionalization will be fun too regarding what is urban. What South Dakota considers urban may be considered suburban by New York standards. Each region is going to have a different definition because it's all relative to the local chapters experience.