It’s relatively easy to quantify the sustainability of commercial buildings thanks to the U.S Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, which has been giving its seal of approval since 1998. Up until now, landscapes have lacked a similar rating system. The Sustainable Sites Initiative, a so-called “LEED for Landscapes” designed by the American Society of Landscape Architects, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the U.S. Botanic Garden, aims to change that.
After 4 years and $2 millon worth of research, the certification is ready for prime time. The Sustainable Sites Initiative, which rates the sustainability of the design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes, is suitable for everything from suburban backyards to college campuses. Landscapes are awarded points based on their proximity to public transportation, use of energy efficient materials, waste treatment, water use, and more. The full list of guidelines and performance benchmarks is available here (PDF).
What’s the big deal about landscapes? They have the potential to positively impact our environment in a multitude of ways–cooling and shading from vegetation, CO2 captured from trees and plants, control of invasive species, general health and well-being, and the list goes on. There’s a reason that vertical gardens have become so popular as of late.
Anyone interested in becoming part of the Sustainable Sites Initiative pilot program has until February 15, 2010 to submit an application. The minimum project size is 2,000 square feet.