Report Offers First Comprehensive Look at Creating Sustainable Landscapes


Washington, D.C. & Austin, Texas, November 10, 2008 — Today, the Sustainable Sites Initiative invites public comment on a new report that offers the most comprehensive set of voluntary, national guidelines ever developed for sustainable landscapes. Titled Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks Draft 2008, it provides more than 50 prerequisites and credit options that cover everything from initial site selection design to construction and maintenance. The report is available for comment and download at, with a public comment period open until Jan. 20, 2009.

The report is particularly timely because of increased concerns about such environmental issues as scarce resources, climate change, waste and air and water pollution. Landscapes have the potential to use resources more efficiently, improve air and water quality, reduce the urban heat island effect and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – helping reduce global warming. However, previous efforts to address sustainable practices in the design and construction industry mostly focused on buildings.

A recent consumer survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) reflects this disparity. While only 58 percent surveyed said they used energy and resource saving practices in their yard, lawn or garden, many more (96 percent) used similar practices in their home.

The previous lack of comprehensive efforts to address sustainable landscapes has left major economic, political and environmental issues unsolved. For example, the report notes, “At a time when water usage in the United States is up 209 percent since 1950, irrigation of unsustainable landscapes accounts for more than a third of residential water use – more than 7 billion gallons per day nationwide.” Additionally, the heat island effect continues to raise peak summer temperatures as much as nine degrees Fahrenheit, increasing utility costs, air pollution and heat-related illnesses. The report offers new, powerful tools to address these and other important problems.

The Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks Draft 2008 is the second report from the Initiative – a partnership between ASLA, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden to create the first voluntary system to evaluate sustainable landscape design, construction and maintenance. The U.S. Green Building Council is lending its support to this project and anticipates incorporating the Initiative metrics into future versions of LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

”Whether the site is a transportation corridor, shopping mall, park, large subdivision or a single home, landscapes hold the unique potential to create a net improvement to the sustainability of the area,” said Nancy Somerville, Executive Vice President and CEO of ASLA. “This new report finally creates a way to measure and recognize those efforts.”

Over three dozen technical advisors in hydrology, vegetation, soils, materials and human health and well being contributed thousands of hours to ensure the credits could apply to any landscape, with or without buildings.

“This is a guidebook for all those who design, construct or maintain our outdoor landscapes,” said Susan Rieff, Executive Director of the Wildflower Center. “If we follow these directions we can create compelling landscapes that actually mitigate environmental harm – making our communities better places to live.”

“These guidelines will change not only the landscape and garden industry but will also raise public expectations about the health and quality of the built environment,” said Holly Shimizu, Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden. “We are asking industry professionals and interested parties to participate in this 45 day public comment period to insure the quality and applicability of the report.” 

An online form is available for the public to provide feedback on this draft at Responses will inform the final Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks which will be released in the summer of 2009.

About the Sustainable Sites Initiative
The Sustainable Sites Initiative is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden working in conjunction with a diverse group of stakeholder organizations to create a voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes, large and small.  In addition to the Founding Partners, major funding for the Sustainable Sites Initiative is provided by: the Meadows Foundation and Landscape Structures. Additional funding is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Horticultural Research Institute, the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. General Services Administration. For more information, visit

About ASLA
Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 18,200 members in 48 professional chapters and 68 student chapters. Landscape architecture is a comprehensive discipline of land analysis, planning, design, management, preservation, and rehabilitation. ASLA promotes the landscape architecture profession and advances the practice through advocacy, education, communication, and fellowship. Members of the Society use their “ASLA” suffix after their names to denote membership and their commitment to the highest ethical standards of the profession. Learn more about landscape architecture online at

About the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to increasing the sustainable use and conservation of native plants and landscapes. Founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady, the Wildflower Center maintains an extensive native plant botanic garden and offers professional and adult education. The Wildflower Center also conducts research on landscape restoration and plant conservation at its 279-acre site, promoting the role of native plants in addressing ecological problems. Recent research initiatives focus on native turf grasses, green roof technology in a sub-tropical climate, prairie restoration methods including prescribed fire, the control of invasive species, and ways in which native plants can aid in combating climate change in urban landscapes. Learn more at

About the United States Botanic Garden
Dating from 1820, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Operating under the jurisdiction of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress since 1856, the Garden informs visitors about the importance and fundamental value of plants to the well-being of humans and our planet. It also highlights the diversity of plants worldwide, particularly their aesthetic, cultural, economic, therapeutic, and ecological significance. With nearly a million visitors annually and located on the National Mall, the USBG strives to demonstrate and promote sustainable practices for individuals, organizations, and institutions. The U.S. Botanic Garden is administered through the Office of the Architect of the Capitol as part of the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government. Learn more online at



Karen T. Grajales
Manager, Public Relations 
tel: 1-202-216-2371