sustainable sites

The Sustainable Sites Initiative has finally released its Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks for suitable land selection, design, construction and operations, the first rating system for sustainable landscapes in North America. It is similar to the LEED rating system with a series of prerequisites and credits for points. Unlike LEED, it is site-focused and applicable to sites both with or without buildings. Under this system a farm or park could be rated and certified on its sustainability as a LEED certified building would. The USGBC , which regulates LEED, is a stakeholder in this project and anticipates incorporating the Sustainable Site's rating system into future LEED points.The Points Categories include:
  1. Site Selection
  2. Pre-Design Assessment and Planning
  3. Site Design- Water
  4. Site Design- Soil and Vegetation
  5. Site Design- Materials Selection
  6. Site Design- Human Health and Well-Being
  7. Construction
  8. Operations and Maintenance
  9. Monitoring and Innovation
I'm really excited about this system- the Guiding Principles are really inspiring, and include:
  • Do no harm
  • Design with nature and culture 
  • Use a systems thinking approach
These guidelines stress ecosystem services such as:
  • Local and global climate regulation
  • Habitat function and pollination
  • Food and renewable food products
They also have a practical application with specific recommendations for implementation in the Potential technologies and strategies heading for each point. 

At this time, the Pilot Project Phase , the SSI is encouraging voluntary implementation of these guidelines by planners, landscape architects, engineers, developers and government agencies. You can submit projects for Pilot Project Certification, which will eventually move into full certification. 

As land planning and design professionals we need to take the first step. Download the SSI Guiding Principles and Performance Benchmarks here . Distribute it to your coworkers and encourage your company to design under these guidelines. We have the potential to create healthy, productive, sustainable landscapes and this initiative is a major step in the process.

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