This past summer, the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) officially launched the Sustainable SItes Initiative (SITES) rating system. GBCI is the organization that certifies LEED projects and accredits LEED professionals. SITES addresses many of the landscape and site issues that are vital to sustainability outside of the physical building.
From the SITES website - "The Sustainable Sites Initiative is a program 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."
We've been hearing about SITES for a few years now. It's development began in 2006, through a collaboration between the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, United States Botanic Garden and the American Society of Landscape Architects. A 2 year pilot recently certified 46 projects across the country.
Being an arborist and urban forester, I am largely interested in how SITES concerns trees. Broadly, the topics of climate change, biodiversity and resource depletion concern urban trees. Specific credits concern the topics of landscape water use, managing precipitation on site, native plants, urban heat islands and energy use around buildings. These are all marked improvements from any LEED rating system, which only gives minimal attention to the landscape. How effective these credits are at achieving their intended goals will be seen as more SITES projects are registered, but I am hopeful that they will make projects both more environmentally sustainable and marketable.
I look forward to having the opportunity to learn more about SITES and hopefully work on some projects under the new rating system.