GBCI launches SITES, its newly acquired rating system for sustainable landscapes

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by Brianna Crandall — June 17, 2015—Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) just launched its newly acquired SITES rating system, said to be the most comprehensive program and toolkit for developing sustainable landscapes, addressing issues that are considered increasingly important to creating livable and resilient communities. GBCI is a third-party organization that provides independent oversight of professional credentialing and project certification programs related to green building, such as the USGBC’s LEED green building rating systems.

SITES was developed through a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden, which put in years of work developing and field testing the program. The rating system can be applied to development projects located on sites with or without buildings—ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, streetscapes and homes, and much more, as demonstrated by the depth and breadth of approaches that have already been implemented by pilot projects.

“Landscapes knit together the fabric of our communities,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO, GBCI. “And sustainable landscapes are critical in their ability to reduce water demand, filter and reduce storm water runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and increase outdoor recreation opportunities. SITES is an important addition to our toolkit, and GBCI appreciates this opportunity to support this additional contribution to healthy, thriving communities and neighborhoods.”

The SITES rating system uses progressive industry standards for landscape design and incorporates additional recommendations from technical experts in the fields of soil science, botany and horticulture, hydrology, materials, and human health and well-being. Some of the credits for sustainable landscape performance were developed in alignment with similar credits in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system, the green building program used in numerous countries around the world.

SITES, originally modeled after LEED, includes best practices in landscape architecture, ecological restoration and related fields as well as knowledge gained through peer-reviewed literature, case-study precedents and projects registered in the SITES pilot program.

SITES is expected to help GBCI further its mission to enact global sustainable change, and draws on the experience gained from a two-year pilot program involving more than 100 projects. Forty-six of these pilot projects have achieved certification, including landscape projects at corporate headquarters, national and city parks, academic campuses and private homes.

Interested project teams can visit the SITES Web site for more information and to register their projects and access the SITES v2: Rating System For Sustainable Land Design and Development, a guide that provides best practices, performance benchmarks and tools for creating ecologically resilient landscapes and rewards successful projects through certification.

The Wildflower Center and ASLA will help GBCI create and implement SITES credentialing and certification offerings such as training project reviewers, and will provide educational opportunities for pursuing SITES certification. GBCI owns exclusive rights to the SITES Rating System, its publications and trademarks.