The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) is an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to transform land development and management practices through the nation’s first voluntary guidelines and rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings. The guidelines and rating system represent years of work by dozens of the country’s leading sustainability experts, scientists, and design professionals and incorporate public input from hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations to create this essential missing link in green design. Major funding for the Sustainable Sites Initiative is provided by the Meadows Foundation and Landscape Structures.
The Role of Landscapes
Existing design and construction rating systems include little recognition of the benefits of sustainable landscape and site design. While carbon-neutral performance remains the holy grail for green buildings, sustainable landscapes move beyond a do-no-harm approach by sequestering carbon, cleaning the air and water, increasing energy efficiency, restoring habitats, and ultimately giving back through significant economic, social, and environmental benefits never fully measured until now. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a stakeholder in the Initiative, anticipates incorporating SITES guidelines and performance benchmarks into future versions of its LEED® Green Building Rating System™.
About the Rating System
Modeled after LEED®, the SITES benchmarks include 15 prerequisites and 51 potential credits, which collectively make up a 250-point-scale rating system. Projects can earn one through four stars for obtaining 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of the total points, respectively. Prerequisites and credits cover areas such as the use of greenfields, brownfields or greyfields; materials; soils and vegetation; and construction and maintenance. These credits can apply to projects ranging from corporate campuses to transportation corridors, from public parks to single-family residences. The rating system is part of two new reports issued from the Initiative, The Case for Sustainable Landscapes and Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009.
The guidelines and performance benchmarks, as well as the rating system, can be used by anyone in the design, construction, and maintenance fields, as well as homeowners, governments, and those who maintain existing green building standards.
A total of 15 projects have now achieved certification under the rating system for the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of built landscapes. These projects, as part of a group of 150 projects participating in an extensive pilot program, have applied the SITES guidelines and met the requirements for certification. Among a new set of eight projects are two commercial ventures, one residence, one park, three public gardens and one educational institution. Each project incorporates sustainable features and practices which enabled them to achieve a star rating.
The most recently certified projects, released in March 2013, include:
• Theater Commons and Donnelly Gardens. One Star. Seattle. Designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, this project transformed a 1.6 acre parking lot, service road, and isolated lawn area into a welcoming, green, pedestrian-focused entry to Seattle Center. Seattle Center is a 74-acre urban park and cultural campus, and the site is located between the Intiman Theatre and the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Storm water from the theater roofs and non-permeable site surfaces is collected and filtered in bio-retention garden basins. Below the surface, a continuous gravel infiltration bed connects the basins and handles runoff, accommodating the required water volume while maximizing aesthetic variety at the surface. Permeable unit pavers help limit storm water runoff.
View South at 2nd Ave N. - A New Pedestrian Gateway to the Seattle Center campus
Photo by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol
• The Taylor Residence. Three Stars. Kennett Square, Pa. The steep slopes of this former dairy farm created an opportunity for innovative water management techniques throughout artfully crafted terraced rooms and unique garden spaces. A drip irrigation septic system handles sensitive wastewater disposal while preserving hillside woodland vegetation, and green roofs absorb rainwater and reduce peak stormwater surge while regulating building temperature. A rescue garden incorporates historic materials unearthed during construction such as a porch railing that has become a fence, porch timbers used to construct a potting shed and excavated stone and soil to form planting beds. The site is intended to demonstrate sustainable landscape design and management techniques to visiting individuals and groups. SITES project manager, landscape architect: Margot S. Taylor.
Springtime in the secret garden with view of magic hut
Photo by Mark Gormel
• BWP EcoCampus. One Star. Burbank, Calif. Burbank Water and Power transformed an electrical substation into a regenerative green campus, showcasing products and techniques for stormwater treatment within a public right-of-way, including permeable pavers, tree-pod bio-filters, silva cells and planted infiltration planter bump outs. Other sustainable features include three rooftop gardens, a solar power array that hosts a rainwater catchment system, a canal that purifies storm water with plants, LED lighting, a solar powered fountain pump and salvaged and repurposed concrete and gravel. The project has also implemented five different water filtration technologies, including infiltration, flow-through, detention, tree root cells and rainwater capture. Landscape architect: AHBE Landscape Architects.
Centerpiece of the EcoCampus is the Centennial Courtyard and its repurposed substation structure
Photo by Heliphoto
• Grand Valley State University Student Recreation Fields. Two Stars. Allendale, Mich. This athletic complex provides playing fields and support facilities for the university’s intramural, club and varsity sports teams and is an important part of the university’s effort to reduce storm water runoff to pre-development levels. Not only does this complex contribute to the health and well-being of the university community, it captures and filters rainwater, contributing to better water quality and less sedimentation in the Grand River and Lake Michigan. The university is monitoring wetland quality as part of its permit requirements.
Newly constructed stormwater bay south of fields complex
Photo by Andy Schwallier, FTC&H
For more information about SITES, visit www.sustainablesites.org. For images, interviews and more on SITES, contact email@example.com.
About 80 of the initial 150 projects in the two-year pilot program have indicated they will continue to pursue certification. Announcements on more certified pilots will be made through 2013.
SITES will continue to receive feedback from the SITES certified pilots and the remaining pilot projects. Their input as well as the public’s will be used to finalize the rating system and reference guide, which is expected to be released widely in 2013.