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On a Mission to Incorporate SITES Certification into Rhode Island Policy

ASLA 2011 Professional General Design Honor Award. The Steel Yard Park. Providence, Rhode Island / Christian Phillips Photography

Around the world, leaders are increasingly recognizing ecosystems as natural capital assets that supply life supporting services of tremendous value. The SITES rating system provides a useful tool to integrate ecosystem services into landscape governance and to demonstrate that ecosystem services is a useful theory for practice.

Ken Filarski, FAIA, has been a driving force behind the adaptation of SITES into Rhode Island policy. SITES is a comprehensive certification system for creating sustainable and resilient land development projects. From early on, he believed that “with LEED joined by…The Sustainable SITES Initiative, Rhode Island would have a continuum of high-performance green building standards for sustainability in our buildings, infrastructure, lands and waters.”

In December 2017, the Rhode Island legislature passed an amendment to the The Green Buildings Act, wherein LEED for Neighborhood Development and SITES would become law for four pilot projects through December 31, 2020 with a reporting to the General Assembly on those pilot projects.

In 2022, a new proposed amendment could fully extend and incorporate LEED-ND and SITES into Rhode Island’s Green Buildings Act. SITES may become an important part of Rhode Island’s sustainability efforts, which include a goal of greenhouse gas emission reductions to net zero by 2050.

This statewide policy adoption could have an enormous impact on the sustainable landscape profession. It is clear that leadership at every level needs tools to build for a more sustainable, resilient, and health-centered future.

For more on Filarski’s mission and his advice for others attempting to change local and state policy, read his full interview

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