New landscape rating system launches, completes green building puzzle

August 11, 2010

On November 5, 2009, the Sustainable Sites Initiative released the nation's first rating system for the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings. A partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the U.S. Botanic Garden, the Initiative's rating system represents four years of work by dozens of the country's leading sustainability experts, scientists and design professionals, as well as public input from hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations to create this essential missing link in green design. The announcement took place at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington.

"While carbon-neutral performance remains the holy grail for green buildings, sustainable landscapes move beyond a do-no-harm approach," said Nancy Somerville, Executive Vice President and CEO of ASLA. "Landscapes sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats and ultimately give back through significant economic, social and environmental benefits never fully measured until now."

"We are facing unprecedented environmental challenges such as water scarcity and climate change that require fundamental changes in the way that we interact with the land," said Susan Rieff, Executive Director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin. "This voluntary rating system and guidelines covers all aspects of working with outdoor spaces of all sizes, and provides information for designing landscapes that go beyond beauty to actually improving ecosystem health and the health of communities for generations to come."                 

"Landscapes can give back," said Holly H. Shimizu, Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden. "We believe that as these guidelines become widely used, not only will they be as transformative to the landscape industry as LEED was to buildings, but more than that, they will allow built landscapes to be regenerative like natural landscapes, and assist in mitigating some of the most pressing environmental issues we face today. We need to acknowledge our landscapes' value, treasure them and cultivate them sustainably and responsibly. The need is urgent, the time is now and these guidelines, when used correctly, are the tools."

The rating system works on a 250-point scale, with levels of achievement for obtaining 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of available points, recognized with one through four stars, respectively. If prerequisites are met, points are awarded through the 51 credits covering areas such as the use of greenfields, brownfields or greyfields; materials; soils and vegetation; construction and maintenance. These credits can apply to projects ranging from corporate campuses, transportation corridors, public parks and single-family residences. The rating system is part of two new reports issued from the Initiative, The Case for Sustainable Landscapes and Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009, both available for download here.
 
To test the rating system, the Sustainable Sites Initiative opened a call for pilot projects in conjunction with the release of the rating system. Any type of designed landscape is eligible, so long as the project size is at least 2,000 square feet. The call will remain open until February 15, 2010, and the initiative will work with and oversee the projects during the two-year process. More information about the pilot projects is available here.

About the Sustainable Sites Initiative
The Sustainable Sites Initiative is an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects, 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 with the nation's first voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes, with our without buildings.

About ASLA
Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing 17,000 members in 48 professional chapters and 68 student chapters. The Society's mission is to lead, to educate, and to participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments. Members of the Society use the "ASLA" suffix after their names to denote membership and their commitment to the highest ethical standards of the profession.

About the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to increasing the sustainable use and conservation of native plants and landscapes. Founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady, the Wildflower Center maintains an extensive native plant botanic garden and offers professional and adult education. The Wildflower Center also conducts research on landscape restoration and plant conservation at its 279-acre site, promoting the role of native plants in addressing ecological problems. Recent research initiatives focus on native turf grasses, green roof technology in a sub-tropical climate, prairie restoration methods including prescribed fire, the control of invasive species, and ways in which native plants can aid in combating climate change in urban landscapes.

About the United States Botanic Garden
Dating from 1820, the United States Botanic Garden is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Operating under the jurisdiction of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, the Garden informs visitors about the importance and fundamental value of plants to the well-being of humans and our planet. It also highlights the diversity of plants worldwide, particularly their aesthetic, cultural, economic, therapeutic, and ecological significance. With nearly a million visitors annually and located on Capitol Hill, the USBG strives to demonstrate and promote sustainable practices for individuals, organizations, and institutions. The U.S. Botanic Garden is administered through the Office of the Architect of the Capitol.
         
 
Contact: Jim Lapides
American Society of Landscape Architects
202-216-2371
jlapides@asla.org






Saralee Tiede
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
512-232-0104
stiede@wildflower.org


Sally Bourrie
U.S. Botanic Garden
202-226-4145
sbourrie@aoc.gov


         
 

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