The Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) is owned and administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). GBCI provides third-party project certification to the requirements of the SITES v2 Rating System and has developed an accompanying professional credential, the SITES Accredited Professional (SITES AP).
From 2006-2014, a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort 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 developed the Sustainable SITES Initiative and the resulting SITES v2 Rating System. During this time, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and GBCI were long-time supporters and stakeholders in the SITES program. In fact, elements of the SITES credit content are incorporated into iterations of the LEED green building rating system. Likewise, SITES has adapted certain LEED credits as part of its SITES v2 Rating System. GBCI acquired the SITES program in 2015.
SITES is a rating system that guides, evaluates, and certifies sustainability and resilience in the design, development, and management of landscapes and other outdoor spaces. SITES supports landscape architects, planners, developers and others in implementing nature-based solutions. This means that SITES projects prioritize biodiversity and mitigate climate change while conserving resources, improving public health and providing economic benefits. SITES certification applies globally to a wide variety of project types and sizes and for sites with or without buildings—ranging from parks to corporate campuses, urban development projects to universities, and more. By protecting and restoring ecosystem services, SITES provides essential benefits to the environment, property owners, and local and regional communities and economies.
By protecting, restoring and generating ecosystem services, the Sustainable SITES Initiative promotes climate regulation, protects air and water quality, controls flooding, improves resilience, mitigates risks from potential hazards, enhances biodiversity, conserves resources, and reduces waste. SITES provides additional benefits for human health and well-being, community development, and local economic stimulation. A wide range of projects can use SITES to elevate the value of their landscapes, ultimately benefiting the environment, property owners and communities.
Carbon, energy and climate
SITES guides projects in reducing carbon emissions and regulating climate, creating positive impacts at multiple scales. Strategies such as protecting and restoring native habitats, restoring soil, and increasing key vegetation cover help to cool cities and communities.
Promoting the use of low-impact materials, electric or manual maintenance strategies, and energy-efficient equipment helps to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption. There are many ways to reduce carbon in our built environment; however, only landscapes have the unique capacity to sequester and store carbon while creating a more livable place.
Energy conservation in buildings
Reducing urban heat island effects
Global climate regulation and increasing carbon storage
Natural systems are of critical value for their ability to store, clean and distribute water and to serve as a habitat for a variety of species. SITES encourages designs that conserve water, maximize the use of precipitation, protect water quality, and protect and restore aquatic resources. The goal is to incorporate strategies and technologies that restore or mimic natural systems and ultimately value water as a critical resource rather than a waste product.
Promoting green infrastructure
Reducing stormwater runoff
Improving water quality
SITES-certified projects mitigate floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires and other hazards that pose risks to property owners and the health and safety of humans and habitats. These risks are exacerbated by climate change and high-impact development. SITES mitigates these hazards by protecting and restoring landscapes, enhancing biodiversity and promoting the implementation of GI and ongoing sustainable management strategies.
Drought and heat mitigation
Ensuring future food supply
Sedimentation and erosion control
Biodiversity is lost due to habitat exploitation, climate change, pollution and invasive species. According to the United Nations, ecosystem loss and degradation are the main threats to 85% of all threatened species. Biodiversity is necessary for the conservation of biological and genetic diversity, as well as the evolutionary processes that support the long-term health and survival of the Earth’s many inhabitants. SITES enriches biodiversity through strategies that protect and restore ecosystems. Additionally, SITES prohibits the use of invasive plants and requires projects to have an invasive species management plan and to use an integrated pest management approach.
Ecosystem conservation and restoration
Management of invasive species
Materials and waste
SITES reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators through strategies such as efficient use, reuse, recycling and composting of materials. These methods are encouraged during construction, renovation and demolition of a project site as well as throughout the entirety of a site’s life cycle. Project teams further reduce the production of waste from SITES-certified landscapes by purchasing sustainable materials from responsible manufacturers.
Waste diversion and resource recovery
Human health and well-being
SITES landscapes promote human health and well-being by regulating the climate, mitigating natural disasters, and preventing disease and illness. SITES further supports both physical and mental health by promoting outdoor opportunities for physical activity, restorative and aesthetic experiences, mental restoration, and social interaction.
SITES encourages projects to address social equity and improve economic opportunities in their design and development choices. In doing so, SITES landscapes can contribute to building a more stable and engaged community that reflects regional and cultural identity.
Food insecurity mitigation
Local economic stimulation