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First projects certified by SITES national rating system for sustainable landscapes
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By Brianna Crandall, January 27, 2012—The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) has announced the first three projects to be certified by the nation's most comprehensive system for rating the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of built landscapes.


The new greenspace at UT Arlington redesigns a brownfield site, turning a past drainage problem into a major site feature and amenity.

The corporate headquarters of an international manufacturing company, a new university green space and a children's playground in an urban park are the first to be recognized for their sustainable land practices from among 150-plus pilot projects that began the certification process in summer 2010. These initial projects are the St. Charles, Missouri, campus of Novus International, Inc.; the Green at College Park of the University of Texas at Arlington; and the Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee.

SITES is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden. The program was created to fill a critical need for guidelines and recognition of green landscapes based on their planning, design, construction and maintenance. The partners have collaborated since 2005 in developing a voluntary, national rating system and set of performance benchmarks for sustainable landscapes in areas with or without buildings.

Facilities owners and managers and others who are seeking inspiration and guidance in this area can utilize the resources on the SITES Web site to learn more about the benefits of sustainable landscaping and such areas of focus as hydrology, soils, vegetation, materials, and human health and well-being.

The certified pilot projects are participating in a pilot program begun in June 2010 to test the four-star rating system created by dozens of the country's leading sustainability experts, scientists and design professionals. Projects selected to be pilots are at various stages of development and represent a diverse mix of project types, sizes, locations and budgets.

The SITES rating system includes 15 prerequisites and 51 additional, flexible credits to choose from. The credit options, totaling 250 points, address areas such as the use of redeveloping brownfields or grayfields; soil restoration; water conservation; use of recycled materials and native vegetation; and sustainable construction and land maintenance approaches.

Certified pilot projects are recognized with one through four stars for obtaining 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of those 250 points. The Novus headquarters, the Green at College Park, and Woodland Discovery Playground SITES certified projects received a 3-star, 1-star, and 1-star rating respectively.

The St. Charles, Missouri, campus of Novus International, Inc.
Among the features Novus developed with SWT Design and others for the nine-acre headquarters was a parking lot with stormwater retention features, a walking trail that winds through restored prairie and other habitat, and a vegetable garden that staff maintains. The garden is fed by a windmill-powered well that retrieves rainwater stored underground. A detention basin captures stormwater on site and provides aquatic habitat and a scenic view from a nearby pavilion topped with a vegetated roof.

The Green at College Park of the University of Texas at Arlington
The Green at College Park project leaders including Professor of Landscape Architecture David Hopman worked with Schrickel, Rollins and Associates Inc. to create an open lawn, pedestrian promenade, shade arbor, and more on roughly three acres in downtown Arlington. The site had served mostly as a parking lot, with poor stormwater drainage that flooded a nearby creek. Now the green space sits next to Arlington's first mixed-use development, and features a water detention system and native and adapted plants in rain gardens that help slow down the flow of stormwater. That process cleanses the water of impurities and captures it for re-use on the green space's new vegetation.

The Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee
The conservancy that oversees Shelby Farms Park developed the Woodland Discovery Playground with James Corner Field Operations and others to restore a woodland and promote children's health. The 4.25 acre playground with tunnels, swings and other amenities was developed based on current children's play theories and after workshops with children and adults. It uses recycled athletic shoe material as a surface for several play areas and loose, recycled boot material as a soft landing under a playroom of nets and tree houses. The permeable surface material allows stormwater to soak into the ground to help nourish an arbor enhanced with native trees that surrounds and links playrooms within the space.

SITES will continue to receive feedback from the SITES Certified Pilots and the remaining pilot projects until June 2012. These projects include private residences, streetscapes, industrial complexes and other settings. Their input as well as the public's will be used to finalize the rating system and reference guide, expected to be released widely in 2013.

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