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SITES National Sustainability Rating System Certifies Eight Projects

The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) has announced eight projects that have achieved certification under the nation’s most comprehensive 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, two-year pilot program, have applied the SITES guidelines and met the requirements for certification. 

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The newly certified projects include the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden in Durham, NC; Cleveland’s Public Garden, Cleveland; Cornell University’s Mann Library Entrance in Ithaca, NY; Hunts Point Landing, an urban park in the Bronx, NY; Meadow Lake and the Main Parking Lot at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle IL; the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, CA; the commercial SWT Design Campus in St. Louis; and the residential Victoria Garden Mews in Santa Barbara, CA.

SITES is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden. SITES was created in 2005 to fill a critical need for guidelines and recognition of sustainable landscapes based on their planning, design, construction and maintenance. The voluntary, national rating system and set of performance benchmarks applies to sites with or without buildings.

“This new group of showplace projects represents a tremendous amount of work toward making the built landscape more sustainable and adding to ecosystem services,” said Holly Shimizu, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Since June 2010, pilot projects have been testing the 2009 rating system created by dozens of the country’s leading sustainability experts, scientists and design professionals. The diverse projects represent various types, sizes and locations as well as stages of development.

The SITES 2009 rating system includes 15 prerequisites and 51 additional, flexible credits to choose from that add up to 250 points. The credits address areas such as soil restoration, use of recycled materials and land maintenance approaches. One through four stars are obtained for achieving 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of those 250 points.

“The pilot program has informed and helped us refine the next iteration of the SITES Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks, which will be published in 2013.  Many additional projects are continuing to work toward certification while we proceed with our preparations for open enrollment next year.” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville.

The eight newly certified projects include 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 Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden at Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Two Stars. Duke University, Durham, NC. (see image at top). This garden is a demonstration center intended to help school groups, families and camp participants understand and apply sustainable landscaping ideas at home.  Salvaged materials were used throughout and a cistern, a bioswale and a rain garden collect rainwater.  Teaching elements include organic vegetable gardens in raised beds, an orchard, bee hives, a compost bin and a “Food Forest” of native plants.

Cleveland’s Public Garden: Modeling Sustainability in the Rustbelt. Three Stars. Cleveland. Cleveland Botanical Garden’s goal was to demonstrate best conservation practices its visitors could apply at home. Among the sustainable features are a low-maintenance lawn that does not require weekly mowing, additional irrigation or fertilizer; a rain garden that captures runoff; native plants; and a green roof that reduces energy costs and slows stormwater runoff.

Cornell University’s Mann Library Entrance. One Star. Ithaca, NY. The Mann Library, which houses the agriculture and horticulture collection, had been a construction site.  A Landscape Architecture/Horticulture class took on the renovation, including site assessment, design and plant installation as well as preparing documents for the certification.  Sustainable features include better soil health resulting from organic additions and percolation; a diversified selection of plants more suitable to local conditions; the removal of invasive plants; and preservation of all trees on the site.

Hunts Point Landing. Two Stars. Bronx, NY. This 1.5 acre project converted a roadway dead-ending at a debris-strewn river bank into a recreation area in a densely-populated part of New York City. This public waterfront allows visitors to bicycle, fish, kayak or enjoy the panoramic view.  Among the sustainable features are recycled bridge stones and roadway materials used in the construction and habitat restoration and protection from storm winds provided by newly planted evergreens, flowering trees and shrubs.

Meadow Lake/Main Parking Lot at The Morton Arboretum. One Star. Lisle, IL. This project turned a man-made retention lake with eroded banks into an attractive, natural-looking waterway with wetland plantings.  It also added stormwater and water pollution controls to the main parking lot. Sustainable features include the first large-scale permeable parking lot installation in Illinois and a bioswale that captures and filters rainwater that would entered storm sewers.

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. One Star. Escondido, CA. The outdoor patios and gardens at this craft brewery and restaurant feature a palette of climate-adapted plants.  The gardens are located in a stormwater retention basin for a surrounding industrial park, and plantings are adapted for water and drought-tolerance. The gardens include edible plants such as avocados, olives and pomegranates as well as Chinook Hops used in making beer.  Most of the boulders and rock utilized in the garden came from the site itself and many of the patio materials were made from reused salvaged materials.

SWT Design Campus. Two Stars. St. Louis. This adaptive-reuse project grafted a contemporary design office and studio addition on an existing Victorian house. The outdoor area modeled a number of sustainable practices, including managing 95 percent of rainwater on-site using a rain garden, roof garden, native Missouri plants, and pervious cover for 75 percent of the hardscape.

Victoria Garden Mews. Two Stars. Santa Barbara, CA.  Three couples who are green building professionals converted a derelict Victorian house into four highly efficient urban units that share habitat-friendly open space. Almost all home energy needs are met onsite.  Sustainable features include rainwater collection in a 14,000-gallon system, a construction waste minimization program that diverted 13 tons from landfills and the use of recycled materials including redwood siding from the Victorian house.

“Perhaps the greatest impact of the two-year SITES pilot program has been the tremendous  interest it has created among people who design, create and maintain  landscapes of all types and sizes  in creating outdoor spaces that use the benefits of nature – ecosystem services—to benefit people and the environment.  Landscape professionals and home gardeners alike are really looking for ways to make what they do sustainable,” said Susan Rieff, executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

About 80 of the initial 150 projects in the two-year pilot program have indicated they will continue to pursue certification. The draft 2013 credits will be available for public review and comment starting September 26. 



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