The first part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, described by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as “code red for humanity,” was released on August 9, 2021. For those of us invested in sustainability and climate mitigation, the results were sobering but unsurprising: We’re on track to exceed 1.5 degrees C of warming in the next two decades, and every fraction of a degree of warming leads to more dangerous and costly impacts for the planet. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C by the end of the century is still within reach, but requires holistic, transformational change. It requires universal adoption of sustainability guidelines, including broad support for sustainable landscapes, which provide the unique opportunity to not only reduce carbon emissions but to protect and even create carbon sinks. To support these goals, GBCI recently released a SITES Pilot Credit focused on assessing and improving site carbon performance.
Land use in the U.S. is largely governed at the local level. Since infrastructure is on everyone’s lips right now, it’s a great opportunity to talk locally about green infrastructure, and interdisciplinary, integrated approaches to sustainable and resilient site development.
A great way to begin local discussion is by proposing landscape guidelines to be adopted by local town councils.
ASLA’s Sustainable Design and Development Professional Practice Network (SDD PPN) is continually seeking to advance sustainable design in ways that are innovative, feasible, and impactful. One specific tool towards achieving this goal is the implementation of the Sustainable SITES Initiative® (SITES®) rating system. The SITES Rating System is a set of comprehensive, voluntary guidelines that inform and asses the sustainable design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes.
As a PPN, we support SITES through education, professional outreach, and the creation of tools to assist landscape architecture practitioners. SITES provides an excellent professional framework for landscape architecture design, but one implementation stumbling block can be getting client buy-in. As more practitioners make the case for SITES, we want to empower you with the tools to advocate for certification. Thus, the SDD PPN leadership team has developed a “SITES in 10” presentation, an elevator pitch slide deck highlighting the reasons why clients should pursue SITES project certification.
In order to create a truly sustainable, resilient, equitable, and healthy society, we must address our outdoor spaces. Unlike conventional buildings, which play an immense role in impacting both our outdoor and indoor environments, healthy and functional landscapes appreciate in value over time, providing a multitude of benefits at various scales—from reducing urban heat island effects and cleaning stormwater runoff in cities to improving the mental and physical health of those who interact with these spaces.
While every building has a site, not every site has a building, and the SITES program fills a necessary and important gap in elevating the importance of landscapes and sustainable site development.
This is why it’s so exciting to see the ways that the market is growing for SITES. Within the past year alone, we saw new project types, new countries implementing the rating system, and stronger commitments to sustainability with Platinum-level certification. To keep up with market demand, we also began formally offering precertification, which can help projects attract community supporters, funders, and can even expedite permitting in some localities.
The SITES program celebrated many “firsts” in the past year, and it is through projects’ leadership that we continue to see demand and ingenuity move the market for sustainable outdoor spaces forward.
Only 11 percent of people associate terms like “green space” and “green building” with creating an environment in which people live longer and healthier lives. Improved air quality is proven to increase cognitive function and decision-making skills, and connection to nature and natural materials promotes human health and wellbeing—yet only 11 percent of people see and understand this link.
This number came from research conducted as part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Living Standard campaign, which was launched at Greenbuild Chicago in November 2018. Living Standard aims to promote healthier, safer, more equitable, and more sustainable spaces through research, storytelling, and listening to those both inside and outside of our communities.
Our research has found that there are a number of ways we can help people connect the dots, including relating green spaces back to health and safety outcomes, future generations, and environmental stakes. But ultimately, it boils down to storytelling and localization.
We are currently finalizing a course around ASLA’s latest Landscape Architecture Technical Information Series (LATIS) report, A Landscape Performance + Metrics Primer for Landscape Architects: Measuring Landscape Performance on the Ground, authored by Emily McCoy, ASLA. This session will present methods that every landscape architect or design firm can use to assess multiple aspects of site performance. Specifically, starting with data sampling basics and including metrics used towards attaining select pre-requisites and credits from the SITES Rating System.
To ensure the most successful learning outcomes and inform discussions during the group breakouts, we are seeking input from our members to help fine-tune the presentation talking points and inform discussions during the group breakouts, including which performance metrics and tools are most relevant and useful to the potential audience:
Orange Coast College Recycling Center becomes first project in the world to earn SITES, LEED, and TRUE Zero Waste certifications
The Orange Coast College (OCC) Recycling Center—already a LEED Gold certified building—has taken sustainability initiatives to a new level by recently achieving SITES Gold and TRUE Zero Waste Platinum certification. The center is also the first project in California to earn SITES v2 certification. Over the past 5 years, a team of sustainability experts has been working on plans to develop the outside space at the recycling center, which has served the OCC and its surrounding community for over 45 years.
The resulting project was truly a collaborative community effort. To prepare for the design, the local community was polled and asked about what types of programs and amenities they wanted the recycling center to include. They shared an interest in use of native plants, public art, interpretive signage, community opportunities and tours, as well as a desire for information on how to be more sustainable and make living spaces greener, organic gardening, and native plant programs.
The results were integrated into the design of the landscape, which focused on incorporating environmentally friendly elements while also increasing public environmental education and active demonstrations of sustainability. The project boasts a wide variety of environmental education opportunities and serves as a great example for how sustainable landscapes can enhance learning and the world around us.
Previously certified as a Four-Star project through the pilot version of SITES in 2013, the CSL is a 24,350-square-foot education, research, and administration facility on a 2.9-acre landscape. Recognized as one of the greenest projects in the world, the building is located on the campus of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is net-zero energy and net-zero water, producing all of its energy renewably and managing all storm and sanitary on-site. In addition to SITES, the CSL has also met three of the highest green building standards: The Living Building Challenge™, LEED® Platinum, and WELL™ Platinum certification (a rating system designed to advance health and well-being in buildings). We decided to pursue certification under SITES v2 to make sure that we were still focused on and promoting the highest level of sustainability related to the landscape.
Utilized daily as Phipps’ education, research, and administration hub, the CSL serves to increase awareness of the interconnection between people, nature, and the built environment, and to promote sustainable systems thinking. With a design that seamlessly integrates into the guest experience at Phipps—a 125-year-old institution with nearly 500,000 annual visitors—the CSL is uniquely positioned to showcase renewable energy technologies, conservation strategies, water treatment, and sustainable landscapes to a broad audience.
by Dennis Carmichael, FASLA, LEED AP, and Kelly Fleming, ASLA, SITES AP
Towne Square at Suitland Federal Center is a 25-acre neighborhood proposed on the site of a former public housing project that was demolished in recent years, as it had become a den of crime. The site adjoins Suitland Federal Center, which houses the U.S. Census Bureau, NOAA, and other federal agencies. The Suitland Metrorail station is south of the federal center and within walking distance of Towne Square. As such, the project is a worthy model of Smart Growth: urban infill within areas of existing infrastructure, multiple modes of transportation, and employment opportunities. The program for the site is residential, retail, and a cultural arts building. The master plan was prepared by an architecture firm, Lessard Design Group. The client is the Prince George’s County Redevelopment Authority and their goal is to transform the site into a community with affordable housing that will serve as a model of sustainability. As part of that strategy, they included SITES® certification as a part of the scope for the landscape architecture to ensure the project meets a high standard for sustainability and that everyone on the project team is accountable.
The landscape architecture scope included the design of the public realm: parks, open spaces, and streetscapes which knit the neighborhood together as a walkable community. Parker Rodriguez was selected as the landscape architect, along with the Low Impact Development Center, for the SITES certification work. SITES certification includes 18 prerequisites and 48 credits for measuring site sustainability. The Redevelopment Authority is requiring that the project achieve Sustainable SITES Initiative Silver Certification, which means that the project must earn between 85 and 99 points out of a possible 200 points.
Prerequisites and credits in the SITES v2 Rating System are organized into 10 sections that follow typical design and construction phases. These sections demonstrate that achieving a sustainable site begins even before the design is initiated and continues through effective and appropriate operations and maintenance. Our goal as landscape architects was to use the SITES tool as the foundation for all of our design decisions so that the entire community is infused with landscape elements that improve air and water quality, reduce heat island effect, create or conserve energy, reduce waste, and reuse materials. We wanted a community where all of these ecological services were visible and understandable to the residents, to engender a sense of pride in place, but also to make this ethic intrinsic.
Enrich your summer with the SITES® Accredited Professional exam: Now through September 3, 2018, ASLA is offering a $100 discount off the SITES AP Exam for the first 150 registrants to use the promo code 2018ASLAPROMO.
Registrants must be an ASLA member to use the code, and will be required to provide an ASLA member number. Questions? Emailsites@asla.org.
An ASLA prepared webinar series to help you study for the exam is available at a discounted rate to members.
The SITES accredited professional exam provides landscape architects with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, expertise, and commitment to the profession. It also establishes a common framework to define the profession of sustainable landscape design and development.
Landscape Architects Make the Case
“For me and the firm, incorporating the principles of SITES into our work is something that we have done for years. What the initiative provides is a logical and structured methodology to accomplish a rich diversity of improvements that can be shared with clients and the community. The more thorough a team is with embracing the credits the better the project can be for the public or private users. The structure allows us as designers to do a better job explaining the complexity of what it is we do and the certification allows the team and client to celebrate good work.”
Hunter Beckham, FASLA
SWT Design Novus International Headquarters Campus, St. Louis, Missouri – Three-star Certified Pilot Project
“SITES is the single best crash-course in real landscape sustainability. Certification requires tangible, quantifiable standards and that rigorous challenge both educated and inspired me. Sustainable practices and client education is now an integral part of all my landscape work.”
CeCe Haydock, ASLA, LEED AP
Hempstead Plains Interpretive Center, Garden City, New York – Two-star Certified Pilot Project
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.
The SITES® AP Chapter Contest is well on its way and the three chapters in the lead are:
California Southern, California San Diego, Florida, and Minnesota are all neck and neck right behind Texas and there’s still a chance to catch up and take the lead. All participants that register and take the exam by March 31 will also have 90 days to retake the exam, at no additional cost, if needed.
Contest Rules and Awards
Two chapters will be awarded: the chapter with the most people and the chapter with the greatest percentage of their membership that register and take the exam by March 31, 2017, will be awarded a half-day SITES workshop! Those members who have already taken the exam since the launch of the exam (including those who took it at the 2016 ASLA Annual Meeting) are also included in the contest.
Be sure to send a tally of your members who have already taken the exam or who are registered and plan to take it by March 31 to email@example.com.
A comprehensive SITES® workshop will take place on Friday, October 21, from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. at this year’s ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans. Last year, this session was rated 4.6 of a possible 5, which put it on the list of top 20 rated sessions. This year promises to match or better that performance!
Expect a definitive overview of the SITES rating system and certification process. We’ll explore the SITES prerequisite checklist used early in the planning phase, then walk through the submittal process with real examples by SITES experts. We’ll also examine some of the actual challenges faced with the certified pilot projects and how to navigate solving them, including how to engage clients in the process.
Register by the advance deadline on September 16 and save $50, a 20 percent discount. Then join us in New Orleans to learn all you need to know about getting your project certified!
In a recent GBCI survey, 80 percent of respondents said that they planned on implementing SITES in their organization or practice, and 89 percent indicated interest in earning a professional credential, such as SITES-accredited professional.
Development of a new professional credential called the SITES Accredited Professional (SITES AP) is currently under way at GBCI.
The new SITES AP credential will not only establish a common framework to define the profession of sustainable land design and construction, it will also provide landscape professionals with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, expertise and commitment to the profession, and will help scale and educate the market on SITES.
Are you attending next month’s Annual Meeting in Chicago? Then take advantage of these opportunities to engage with SITES experts, staff, and project leaders.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES®) is a set of comprehensive, voluntary guidelines together with a rating system that assesses the sustainable design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes. By aligning design and development practices with the functions of healthy ecosystems, SITES provides a valuable tool that demonstrates how designers and other stakeholders can improve upon the value of a site through regenerative landscapes and an ecosystem services framework. Administered by GBCI, the SITES rating system can apply to developed projects located on sites with or without buildings—ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, streetscapes, homes, and many more.
The Sustainable SITES Initiative™ (SITES™) has announced eight new projects that have achieved certification under the nation’s most comprehensive rating system for the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of built landscapes. To date 23 projects have achieved SITES certification. An additional 60+ projects continue to pursue certification using the 2009 Rating System.
The newly certified projects are Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley, Texas; Harris County WCID 132’s Water Conservation Center in Spring, Texas; American University School for International Service in Washington, D.C.; Bat Cave Draw and Visitor’s Center at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, N.M.; Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center at Mesa Verde National Park, Colo.; George “Doc” Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale, Az.; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Research Support Facility in Golden, Colo.; and Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park in Beacon, N.Y.
The projects certified up to this point have qualified under the 2009 rating system. It includes 15 prerequisites and 51 additional, flexible credits that add up to 250 points. The credits address areas such as soil restoration, use of recycled materials and land maintenance approaches. Projects can achieve one through four stars by amassing 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of the 250 points. An updated rating system, SITES v2, will be published this fall, using information gained through the pilot project certification process.
Read more about the sustainable features and practices of the eight newly-certified SITES pilot projects below. Continue reading →
A budding spring day was a welcome setting for the recent ceremony on May 2, 2013 to honor the Taylor Residence, a newly-certified SITES™ pilot, and the first residential project in the country to earn 3 star certification as part of the SITES Pilot Program. Located in the horticultural epicenter known as the Brandywine Valley and Delaware River watershed, the 1.69 acre residential property and former dairy farm in Kennett Township, Pennsylvania, earned recognition from SITES for its successful application of sustainable strategies including preserving native woodlands and hillside vegetation, designing innovative stormwater management and conveyance systems, and the creative reuse of soils, plants, and construction materials.
SITES has extended the public comment period seeking input on the proposed 2013 Prerequisites and Credits. This incorporates feedback received during the two-year pilot program and additional research from SITES staff and technical advisors. To provide comments, please click here. The public comment period will close on November 26, 2012 at 5:00pm Central.
TO LEARN MORE:
Watch a live 1.5 hour webinar on Thursday, November 8, 2pm CST/ 3pm EST to learn more about the proposed 2013 credits. Click here to link to the webinar (enter as guest). Prior to the webinar, follow these steps to make sure your computer’s system requirements are met.
SITES™ Public Comment Period Closes November 5: Give Your Feedback!
The deadline to submit comments on the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) proposed 2013 credits is Monday at 5:00 p.m. CST, November 5, 2012. SITES™ is the most comprehensive set of voluntary, national guidelines ever developed for sustainable landscapes. The proposed revisions are based on experience gained through the two-year pilot program, which involved 150 projects, 11 of which have been certified so far.
All industry professionals and interested parties are urged to participate during this public comment period to ensure the quality and applicability of the revised guidelines. Responses will inform the SITES 2013 Reference Guide, which will be released in mid-2013.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative is a partnership between the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden to create a system to evaluate sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance.
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.