About the Sustainable Sites Initiative


June 24, 2014

Dear ASLA member,

We are pleased to share the news that ASLA and the University of Texas at Austin (UT) are in negotiations with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) to establish a collaboration that will ensure the long-term future of the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™). GBCI performs project certification and professional credentialing for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System. The boards of ASLA and GBCI and UT are committed to the principles underlying the agreement, which include GBCI administration of open project certification and professional credentialing. It is also contemplated that the SITES project will be rebranded. ASLA will continue to be involved in the future direction of the rebranded SITES, will collaborate with GBCI on promotion and advocacy for the program, and will provide related education programming for ASLA members and others.

The involvement of USGBC and GBCI has always been a critical component in the development of SITES. The resources that GBCI offers will most quickly enable SITES to realize its full potential for market transformation. We hope to have a final agreement in place, and to be able to share the start date for open project certification, soon. In the meantime, members can review the revised Rating System to prepare for project certification. The revised Rating System is the culmination of many years of work by a dedicated team of volunteer experts. We are proud of ASLA’s and our members’ contributions to this critical program.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) is an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to transform land development and management practices through the nation’s first voluntary guidelines and rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings. The guidelines and rating system represent years of work by dozens of the country’s leading sustainability experts, scientists, and design professionals and incorporate public input from hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations to create this essential missing link in green design. Major funding for the Sustainable Sites Initiative is provided by the Meadows Foundation and Landscape Structures.

The Role of Landscapes

Existing design and construction rating systems include little recognition of the benefits of sustainable landscape and site design. While carbon-neutral performance remains the holy grail for green buildings, sustainable landscapes move beyond a do-no-harm approach by sequestering carbon, cleaning the air and water, increasing energy efficiency, restoring habitats, and ultimately giving back through significant economic, social, and environmental benefits never fully measured until now. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a stakeholder in the Initiative, anticipates incorporating SITES guidelines and performance benchmarks into future versions of its LEED® Green Building Rating System™.

About the Rating System

Modeled after LEED®, the SITES benchmarks and Rating System were published in the Sustainable Sites Initiative Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009. Since then, the Rating System has been tested by over 150 pilot projects, which include educational centers, transportation corridors, industrial complexes, parks, recreation centers, and residences.

SITES v2, as revised, includes 18 prerequisites and 51 potential credits.  Prerequisites and credits cover areas such as the use of greenfields, brownfields, or greyfields; materials; soils and vegetation; and construction and maintenance. The revised credits serve as the basis for SITES' move to open enrollment.

The guidelines and performance benchmarks, as well as the rating system, can be used by anyone in the design, construction, and maintenance fields, as well as homeowners, governments, and those who maintain existing green building standards.

Pilot Certifications

A total of 46 projects have achieved certification under the 2009 Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks. Each of the projects incorporates sustainable features and practices that enabled them to achieve a rating of one to four stars.

The certified projects are:

38 Dolores, San Francisco, CA, two stars
American University School of International Service, Washington, DC, two stars
Anacostia Watershed Society Headquarters, Bladensburg, Maryland,  three stars
Bat Cave Draw and Visitor’s Center, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM, two stars
Blue Hole Regional Park, Wimberley, TX, one star
Boeddeker Park, San Francisco, California, two stars
Brent Elementary Schoolyard Greening, Washington, DC, one star
BWP EcoCampus, Burbank, CA, one star
Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden at Duke University, Durham, NC, two stars
Cleveland’s Public Garden, Cleveland, OH, three stars
Cornell University’s Mann Library Entrance, Ithaca, NY, one star
East Bay Public Plaza, Olympia, WA, one star
Environmental Laboratory for Sustainability and Ecological Education, San Jose, California, one star
Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park, Silver Spring, Maryland, three stars
George “Doc” Cavalliere Park, Scottsdale, AZ, three stars
Grand Valley State University Student Recreation Fields, Allendale, MI, two stars
The Green at College Park of the University of Texas at Arlington, TX, one star
Harris County Water Conservation and Improvement District (WCID) 132’s Water Conservation and Demonstration Center, Houston, TX, one star
HELIX Environmental Planning Inc. Headquarters, La Mesa, California, one star
Hempstead Plains Interpretive Center, Garden City, New York, two stars
Kirke Park, Seattle, WA, two stars
Hunts Point Landing, Bronx, NY, two stars
Luci and Ian Family Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas, two stars
Meadow Lake and the Main Parking Lot at the Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL, one star
Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, Mesa Verde National Park, CO, two stars
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Research Support Facility, Golden, CO, three stars
Perkins+Will office, Atlanta, GA, one star
Pete V. Domenici United States Courthouse Sustainable Landscape Renovation, Albuquerque, NM, two stars
Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes, Pittsburgh, PA, four stars
Novus International Inc., St. Charles, MO, three stars
Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, Texas, one star
Scenic Hudson Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY, three stars
Shoemaker Green, Philadelphia, PA, two stars
Square 80 Plaza at The George Washington University, Washington, DC, one star
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido, CA, one star
Swaner EcoCenter, Park City, Utah, one star
SWT Design Campus, St. Louis, MO, two stars
Taylor residence, Kennett Square, PA, three stars
Theater Commons and Donnelly Gardens, Seattle, WA, one star
Tuthill Corporate Headquarters Campus, Burr Ridge, Illinois, one star
U.S. Federal Office Building, Miramar, Florida, two stars
Victoria Garden Mews, Santa Barbara, CA, two stars
Washington Canal Park, Washington, DC, three stars
West Point Foundry Preserve,Cold Spring, NY, one star
Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park, Memphis, TN, one star.

For information visit


For more information about SITES, visit:

For background, images, interviews, and more, contact: media@

SITES Contacts:

Terence Poltrack, ASLA,, 202.216.7852; Barbara Rodriguez, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin,, 512.232.0105; and Ray Mims,, U.S. Botanic Garden, 202.409-1659.