Landscape Rating System Blooms

TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 2015

WASHINGTON--Like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, sustainable landscapes now have a rating system of their own.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative, known as SITES, offers a "systematic, comprehensive rating system designed to define sustainable sites, measure their performance, and ultimately elevate the value of landscapes," according to Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which developed the system.

The voluntary program, announced Wednesday (June 10), is designed for landscape architects, designers and other professionals who influence land development and management practices.

The landscaping rating system complements the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program for architectural structures. GBCI administers the LEED program.

Land Management

The SITES system is "based on the understanding that land is a crucial component of the built environment and can be planned, designed, developed, and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits we derive from healthy functioning landscapes," GBCI said.

GBCI believes the system "can address increasingly urgent global concerns such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and resource depletion."

The rating system can apply to development projects on sites with or without buildings, including open spaces, streetscapes and plazas in commercial, residential, educational/institutional, infrastructure, government, military and industrial settings.

The program bolsters GBCI's roster of certifications and "helps us to further our mission to enact global sustainable change,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, the organization's president.

Greener Landscapes

The program's rollout follows a two-year pilot involving more than 100 projects. Forty-six projects received certification, including landscape projects at corporate headquarters, national and city parks, academic campuses and private homes.


The SITES-certified U.S Federal Office Building in Miramar, FL, follows a landscape plan that minimizes impacts on adjacent conservation areas and the Florida Everglades.

The program builds on existing landscape design standards with recommendations from experts in soil science, botany and horticulture, hydrology, materials and health. Some of the standards also align with the LEED program.

Projects seeking certification must be at least 2,000 square feet and have been built within the past two years. The application cost is $7,500 for members of USGBC or the American Society of Landscape Architects and $10,000 for non-members.

Ari Novy, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden, said the rating system was useful because it focused on the human benefits that come from functional ecosystems.

“This approach will help maximize our collective ability to create sustainable and healthy communities,” said Novy, a program development partner.

Other project collaborators included the American Society of Landscape Architects and The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

Qualifying for Certification

Certification under SITES requires that a project be at least 2,000 square feet and have been built within the past two years. The cost to be considered for certification is $7,500 for members of USGBC or the American Society of Landscape Architects and $10,000 for non-members.


Tagged categories: Building design; Certifications and standards; Good Technical Practice; Green building; Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI); Green design; Landscape architects; LEED; North America; U.S. Green Building Council

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