Design and construction rating systems like LEED include little recognition of the benefits of sustainable landscape and site design. The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) intends to change that with a 4-star rating system that recognizes “ecosystem services”.
These ecosystem services include global and local climate regulation, air and water cleansing, water supply and regulation, erosion and sediment control, hazard mitigation, pollination, habitat functions, waste decomposition and treatment, human health and well-being benefits, food and renewable non-food products, and cultural benefits.
SITES is a distillation of practices and principles for integrating “ecosystem services” into site development, as described in The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009, released on November 5, 2009. It establishes and encourages sustainable practices in landscape design, construction, operations, and maintenance.
Sustainable landscapes move beyond the typical green building do-no-harm/carbon neutral approach by sequestering carbon, cleaning the air and water, increasing energy efficiency, restoring habitats, and giving back through significant economic, social, and environmental benefits never fully measured until now. The U.S. Green Building Council anticipates incorporating the SITES guidelines and performance benchmarks into future iterations of its LEED® Green Building Rating System™.
SITES provides the first voluntary guidelines and rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings, and creates an essential missing link in green design.
Earl Ophoff, LSA, is a landscape architect and a senior project manager with Midwestern Consulting, LLC, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Call Earl at 734.995.0200.