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SITES Update: Progress on the Sustainable Sites Initiative

by Tobias Wolf

The Sustainable Sites Initiative, known as SITES™, has made important strides in the last year.

SITES promotes sustainable practices for the design and management of landscapes. Complementing the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (USGBC LEED®) program, which focuses on buildings, SITES takes sustainability outdoors. As the nation’s most comprehensive rating system for sustainable landscapes, SITES provides guidelines and standards for every stage of a project, from site selection through operations.

Shoemaker Green. Photo Barrett Doherty.

Shoemaker Green. Photo Barrett Doherty.

After four years of documenting and assessing pilot projects throughout the US, SITES is up and running with project certification. In 2013 it granted its first four-star certification to the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, designed by Andropogon Associates. The Center manages all sanitary waste and up to ten-year storm events on site, has reintroduced over a hundred native plant species to the site, and is designed for net-zero energy and water use.

Andropogon was also the designer of Shoemaker Green at the University of Pennsylvania, which SITES awarded three stars. Andropogon’s Director of Integrative Research Emily McCoy will discuss the project at ELA’s Conference & Eco-Marketplace on February 27, 2014. Shoemaker Green captures and manages stormwater from the site and surrounding rooftops, provides viable native plant and animal habitat within an urban campus, minimizes transportation of materials to and from the site, and has initiated the development of a sustainable maintenance strategy for the entire university campus.

University of Pennsylvania, Shoemaker Green. Photo Andropogon Associates.

University of Pennsylvania, Shoemaker Green. Photo Andropogon Associates.

2014 will see the rollout of SITES v2, which will include substantial additions and clarifications based on a four-year assessment of the 2009 standards through their application to 150 pilot projects. Each edition has been designed not only as an road map to certification, but as a set of guidelines that owners, designers, builders, and managers can apply to any site regardless of whether certification is sought.

SITES is a joint project of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Center for Sustainable Development at the University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanical Garden. ELA is a SITES Participating Organization.

About the Author

Tobias Wolf ASLA is a co-founder of Wolf Lighthall Landscape Architecture + Planning in Lincoln, Massachusetts. He has taught at Cornell, RISD, the Landscape Institute, and the New England Wild Flower Society.