“Sustainable SITES – Promotes land development and management practices with our future in mind. Sustainable SITES generates less waste, minimizes impact on the landscape, and uses less energy, water, and natural resources.”

LEED certification is known largely as evidence that a project has met standards that go above and beyond typical construction methods with an emphasis on achieving above-average building efficiency and reduced operational costs. From a landscape architect’s perspective, we always ask, “What is going on outside the building?” We recognize that LEED touches on reduced landscape water usage, reduction of urban heat island, and to some extent, habitat creation and other ecological issues. However, these outdoor areas are secondary to the building’s energy efficiency credentials.

You may ask yourself, “What is a sustainable site”? The Sustainable Sites Initiative, or SITES, does not provide a succinct definition, as the term Sustainable can encompass a wide range of topics when applied to the exterior built and unbuilt environment.  A designer, developer, or even homeowner will undoubtedly have different answers to this question of “What is a sustainable site?”.  The interesting thing is, these varied perspectives and definitions may all be correct.

Novus International Headquarters
Novus International Headquarters – In 2012, this project was awarded a 3-star rating by

SITES, making it one of the highest rated landscape projects in the world.

SWT Design led the landscape design for this project.

SITES provides a detailed and highly complex framework for determining the answer to the title question of this post.  That may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. The SITES rating system offers insights on a way of thinking that has the future at the forefront of its process.  You can learn more about the most recent adoption of the SITES rating system by visiting USGBC.

A SITES certification will not benefit every project. In fact, most projects do not see the benefit due to the cost of documenting and processing the certification. SITES covers the obvious topics of water and energy conservation, efficient maintenance, and environmental impacts. Additionally, it addresses how humans perceive and interact with the environment around us, which is, really the core of a sustainable site. All topics lead back to one connecting factor, people. SITES strives to bring all these elements into focus around what humans value most, ourselves!  “How does reducing water usage help me? How does preserving and enhancing native habitats benefit me?”

A sustainable site is a landscape that benefits people. How do we create the most benefit for people, now and for future generations? The “site” is key, without a site for people to thrive in (the environment) where would we be?  Looking at development with the lens of improving the SITES for future generations is really what a sustainable site is all about, but that’s just my definition. 

What’s your definition of a sustainable site? Visit our Facebook page to tell us your definition of a Sustainable SITE https://www.facebook.com/SWTDesign/

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