Early this year, a new standard in green building was developed to encourage sustainable land development and management practices for sites without structural components. The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) is the first of its kind in terms of sustainability for project sites without buildings and provides tools for those who influence land development and management practices.
By developing sustainable benchmarks for soils, hydologry, vegetation, human health and well-being, and materials selection, SITES provides new standards which help project teams properly combat growing global environmental concerns like climate change, biodiversity loss and resource depletion.
The effort to launch this program began as two individual projects of the Sustainable Design and Development Professional Practice Network of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. In 2005, the two groups united to hold a Sustainable Sites Summit. Once the United States Botanical Garden joined the mission, Technical Subcommittees were created to guide the Initiative in the right direction.
Those in charge of SITES hope the program will increase awareness of green building possibilities for landscapes and land planning, much like the way the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED program did for sustainable building design and construction.
Open spaces such as local, state and national parks, conservations easements and buffer zones, and transportation rights-of-way are just a few site examples that are encouraged to participate in SITES. More conventional developments with buildings such as retail and office, airports, residential and commercial projects can also take advantage of the tools SITES has created.