Photo Courtesy of Sustainable SITES Initiative
Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park in Silver Spring, Md., is one of 46 certified SITES projects. The concrete-lined stream channel of the 7.3-acre park is a model for future naturalization efforts.


Earlier this month, Green Business Certification Inc.—the certification body for the LEED rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council—announced it is accepting applications for project certification under the Sustainable Sites Initiative Version 2 rating system for greener landscapes. The USGBC's GBCI, formerly known as Green Building Certification Inc., recently acquired SITES, the world's first eco-landscape certification system, from its developers—the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas and the United States Botanic Garden.

"If we want to advance sustainable practice across communities and cities, we have to include the landscape," says Peter Templeton, USGBC's senior vice president for global development. "We see this as a fundamental part of the equation."

Currently there are 46 certified eco-friendly landscapes, thanks to the SITES pilot program, which was launched in 2009 (ENR 11/16/09 p. 15). "The future of the program is more secure given the [USGBC and GBCI's] bandwidth and their support systems," says Nancy C. Somerville, executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

The premise of SITES is that any project—a university campus, a subdivision, a shopping mall, a park, a commercial center, a streetscape or a home—has potential to protect, improve and regenerate the ecosystem, according to SITES.

SITES is a voluntary rating system. Official recognition of sustainable practices and landscape performance is based on "objective and rigorous planning, design, construction and maintenance criteria," developed through research and input by technical experts, stakeholder organizations and the public, according to SITES.

"It was our intention all along to transfer SITES to the USGBC," says Frederick R. Steiner, dean of the school of architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, and the one credited with catalyzing the program (ENR 1/18/10 p. 34).

Through a consulting relationship with GBCI, ASLA and the wildflower center will continue to contribute to the development of SITES, as members of the SITES advisory council and through other activities. The developers will also continue to be involved on the technical committees. ASLA members are entitled to discounts for all SITES materials, certification and, when developed, SITES credentialing, says ASLA.

Full financial details of the SITES purchase were not disclosed.