Sustainable Sites Initiative releases landscape guidelines

The Sustainable Sites Initiative has released the nation’s first rating system for the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings. It was developed through a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the U.S. Botanic Garden. The initiative’s rating system represents 4 years of work by the country’s leading sustainability experts, scientists and design professionals, as well as public input.

“While carbon-neutral performance remains the holy grail for green buildings, sustainable landscapes move beyond a do-no-harm approach,” said Nancy Somerville, exec. v.p. and CEO of ASLA. “Landscapes sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats and ultimately give back through significant economic, social and environmental benefits never fully measured until now.”

“We are facing unprecedented environmental challenges such as water scarcity and climate change that require fundamental changes in the way that we interact with the land,” said Susan Rieff, exec. director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at Univ. of Texas at Austin. “This voluntary rating system and guidelines covers all aspects of working with outdoor spaces of all sizes, and provides information for designing landscapes that go beyond beauty to actually improving ecosystem health and the health of communities for generations to come.”

The rating system works on a 250-point scale, with levels of achievement for obtaining 40%, 50%, 60% or 80% of available points, recognized with one through four stars, respectively. If prerequisites are met, points are awarded through the 51 credits covering areas such as the use of greenfields, brownfields or greyfields; materials; soils and vegetation; construction and maintenance. These credits can apply to projects ranging from corporate campuses, transportation corridors, public parks and single-family residences. The rating system is part of two new reports issued from the initiative, “The Case for Sustainable Landscapes” and “Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009.”

To test the rating system, the initiative opened a call for pilot projects in conjunction with the release of the rating system. Any type of designed landscape is eligible, so long as the project size is at least 2,000 sq. ft. The call will remain open until Feb. 15, 2010, and the initiative will work with and oversee the projects during the two-year process.

HT: Garden Center Magazine

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