The Sustainable Sites Initiative will establish Sustainable Sites as an industry-adopted mechanism with standards by which sustainable site development is measured. Achieving this mission will promote the larger vision: “All site-related planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance practices link natural and built systems to achieve balanced environmental, social, and economic outcomes to improve quality of life and the long-term health of communities and the environment.”
In just two short years, Sustainable Sites Initiative has morphed from idea to a funded partnership among diverse organizations with national and international reach. The US General Services Agency and the USDA Forest Service provided early support for the project. ASLA, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and new partner the United States Botanical Garden, are now also supported in their efforts by seven more organizations: the US EPA’s GreenScapes Program, the National Recreation and Park Association, the Nature Conservancy’s Global Invasive Species Initiative, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Environment and Water Resources Institute, the Center for Sustainable Development at the University of Texas at Austin, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the US Green Building Council. Representatives from these organizations meet regularly as the Product Development Committee (PDC) to provide stakeholder input, guide progress, and in the future, integrate findings.
The work of the last two years focused on clarifying goals and building relationships. With partnerships now established within a structured program, the focus will shift to content and product. Technical teams (or “Research Subcommittees”) are being assembled to concentrate expertise in discrete topic areas, beginning with soils, hydrology, vegetation, and materials/waste management. Teams will be kept small (4-6 participants) in order to allow them to move quickly.
Names of participants in these teams emerge through extensive conversations with over 300 experts who provide recommendations, with certain names clearly “rising to the top.” Technical teams are also composed so that participants’ areas of expertise complement one another to provide a variety of angles on issues. Funding is available for one graduate student to work with each subcommittee. The call for applicants will be released in early spring of 2007 and will be posted to the SDD PPN listserv.
The technical teams are just beginning to meet and begin their work to compile, analyze, and assess best practices for achieving performance goals, as well as typical costs and benefits associated with each practice. During their two-year terms, the teams will release increasingly detailed reports for public review and comment. Reports will be posted on both ASLA’s and the Wildflower Center’s websites, and further disseminated through the SDD PPN listserv. The first reports will be released this fall, in approximately six months.