Sustainable Landscape Guidelines Tested

The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) has selected pilot projects to test a national rating system for sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance. Over 150 Pilot Projects are participating in the SITES two-year Pilot Program from June 2010 to June 2012.

Launched in 2005, SITES represents a partnership of 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 fill a critical gap in green design, construction, and maintenance by creating voluntary guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable landscapes of all kinds, with or without buildings.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture; New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward Sustainable Infrastructure Project; and the Indianapolis Super Bowl Village join more than 150 others that include educational centers, transportation corridors, industrial complexes, and private residences in employing guidelines and performance benchmarks outlined in the SITES Rating System.

The SITES Rating System includes 15 prerequisites and 51 different credits covering areas such as the initial site selection, water, soil, vegetation, materials, human health and well being, construction and maintenance — adding up to a 250 point scale. The rating system recognizes levels of achievement by obtaining 40, 50, 60, or 80 percent of available points with one through four stars, respectively. SITES will receive feedback from the pilot projects until June 2012 to revise the final rating system and reference guide for release in 2013.

Pilot Program Marks Next Phase
The pilot program will put to the test this rating system created by dozens of the country’s leading sustainability experts, scientists, and design professionals, with public input from hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations.

“We received hundreds of applications from an impressive array of federal agencies, international companies, major universities, and non-profit organizations among many others to participate in the pilot program,” said ASLA executive vice president and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. “The selected projects represent an elite group covering a diverse range of size, project type, and geographic location.”

Pilot program sites vary in scope from several thousand dollar budgets on less than one acre, to multimillion dollar efforts affecting hundreds of acres. These projects will restore habitats, rehabilitate landfills, clean and store stormwater, lower the urban heat island effect, create outdoor educational opportunities at schools, and reconnect neighborhoods to parks and public transportation.

Below is a summary of the projects participating in the pilot program:

Project Types
25% Open space – Park
20% Institutional/Educational
15% Commercial
14% Residential
8% Transportation corridor/Streetscape
8% Open space – Garden/Arboretum
6% Government Complex
3% Mixed Use
1% Industrial

Projects in 34 U.S. States
3% of projects outside U.S. in Canada, Iceland, and Spain

Existing Land Use
65% Greyfield
20% Greenfield
15% Brownfield

Project Size
25% Less than one acre
26% 1 to 5 acres
40% 6 to 100 acres
8% 101 to 500 acres
1% Greater than 500 acres

Pilot project locations and descriptions can be found at


  1. I run a small landscaping company in Birmingham AL. I use many of the sustainable landscaping ideas being promoted out there because they are not only good for my business and the environment, but they also save a considerable amount for the owners of the buildings and homes I landscape.

    Mulch, native plants, lots of rich topsoil save lots of money and time in pesticides, water, fertilizer and maintenance. Rain water utilization saves water and all of the chemicals used to purify “city”water.

    Facility managers should pay attention to this blog as well as these ideas to protect their jobs and save money for their projects. We are all stewards of this small planet we live on!

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