The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) has announced the launch of its pilot program, and 65% of the pilot projects involve redevelopment of brownfield sites rather than new development on “greenfield” sites. SITES has been in development since 2005 (see “Group to Create Rating System for Landscapes”), and is a joint project of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas–Austin, and the U.S. Botanical Garden.

Structured like LEED: The pilot version of the SITES rating system, made up of 15 prerequisites and 51 credits, offers 250 points and four levels of certification, signified by stars. According to Nancy Somerville, CEO of ASLA, the system, sometimes called “LEED for landscapes,” was design to complement LEED and other rating systems that focus on buildings. “LEED touches on landscape, but only in a limited way,” she said. SITES worked with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) on the rating system, using Sustainable Sites credits from LEED to inform some SITES credits. In turn, USGBC plans to consider SITES credits in the creation of future versions of LEED.

SITES emphasizes preserving intact ecosystems whenever possible, and requires that projects use 50% less water than established baselines; points are available for higher water savings as well as for managing stormwater on site. The rating system also requires project teams to use an integrated site development process, and offers points for including users and other stakeholders in the design process. Credits are available for using native species, reducing heat island effects, using vegetation to minimize building cooling loads, using materials with low environmental impact or high percentages of recycled content, and minimizing construction impacts. SITES also includes a section on operations and maintenance, which covers electricity use and generation, recycling, and waste management for organic matter.  Read more at BuildingGreen.com.