Interested parties have until Jan. 20 to comment on a draft set of guidelines for sustainable landscapes that is the first step toward a green-landscape rating system. Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks Draft 2008, considered the first comprehensive look at sustainable landscape design, construction and maintenance, will eventually be joined by The Sustainable Sites Initiative Rating System, expected in 2011, and the Sustainable Sites Initiative Reference Guide, expected in 2012.

Guidelines will help enable built landscapes to support natural ecological functions.

The publications are projects of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, a partnership of Washington, D.C.-based American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas, Austin, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. The U.S. Green Building Council is expected to incorporate the group’s upcoming metrics into its LEED green-building rating system.

“Throughout the life cycle of each site—from design and construction through operations and maintenance—these guidelines will enable built landscapes to support natural ecological functions by protecting existing ecosystems and regenerating ecological capacity where it has been lost,” states the draft, available at “Not intended as a tool for regional planning, the benchmarks are meant to guide, measure and recognize sustainable landscape practices on a site-by-site basis and may also inform larger-scale projects.”

Three dozen advisors in hydrology, vegetation, soils, materials and human health and well-being have helped develop and craft the 180-page draft over a two-year period. The Sustainable Sites Initiative expects to release the final version of the guidelines next summer.