The state of Rhode Island continues to lead by example in establishing sustainable energy and green building policy. This past fall the Rhode Island legislature passed a bill to expand the state’s eight-year legacy of green public buildings policy to include public lands. The Senate passed S-0952A/H-5427A amending its Green Building Act to include public lands and specifying Sustainable SITES Initiative® (SITES) and LEED for Neighborhood Development as applicable rating systems for certification. Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed the bill into law on Thursday, October 5. This move makes Rhode Island the first state in the nation to reference the SITES rating system in public policy.
Since 2010, the state has been applying LEED in its newly constructed state-funded facilities, but starting immediately, state and local governments working on new projects that address the space between buildings through public parks or landscapes will also consider applying SITES and LEED ND to sites adjacent to public facilities. LEED and SITES are complementary and can be used independently or in tandem, earning credits that count toward both rating systems.
SITES is based on the understanding that land is a crucial component of the built environment, and the rating system can be applied to development projects with or without buildings—ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, from streetscapes to homes.
LEED ND incorporates the principles of smart growth, New Urbanism, and green building into a global standard for green neighborhood planning and design. The voluntary leadership standard for neighborhood development helps guide development projects in terms of where they’re located, how they’re designed, and how they perform.
By using these rating systems for public projects, Rhode Island is creating healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient places for its residents. In addition, the state is also being a good fiscal steward of the public’s funds while signaling to the private market the state’s support for sustainability in the built environment. Green infrastructure and built landscapes protect people and buildings, as well as mitigating the impact of natural disasters.
by Linette Straus, ASLA, ISA, SITES AP, Professional Practice Manager