The Sustainable Sites Initiative is up and running, with Version 2.0 ready for implementation. That’s the message Green Business Certification, Inc. wanted to convey at their late October webinar about Sustainable Sites.
“It’s a nascent program. Our pitch is those of you on the ground floor have the opportunity to lead in the space and to be the stories we talk about for years to come,” said Micah Silvey, Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI) during a late October webinar. “We are open for business,” she emphasized.
The Sustainable Sites pilot included a diverse range of projects from projects less than one acre, to hundreds of acres. Forty six pilot projects achieved certification, Micah said.
Sustainable Sites is the landscape analogy to LEED for buildings. Ecosystems services and the benefits for society are not typically part of conventional accounting methods for landscapes, Jamie Statter, GBCI said. Direct and indirect benefits to humans in the landscape involve both living and non-living elements. Ecosystems can help regulate climate, control erosion, provide goods such as water, food or raw materials, provide wildlife habitat and other benefits such as play and health.
Sustainable Sites includes 10 sections. There are 18 pre-requisites and 48 credits used to measure sustainability. Similar to LEED, the 18 pre-requisites must be met. Then, on top of those, 48 credits offer a range of points across the 10 sections. Credits are optional, but you’ve got to achieve enough credits to reach a level for certification. Offering an array of credits provides projects opportunities to achieve certification at some level, Jamie said.
Among the requisites: All projects must manage a 60% percentile, 30-year storm event onsite through infiltration, evapotranspiration and reuse, not simply detaining stormwater and releasing it later. The intent is to replicate the natural hydrological conditions, Jamie explained. Additional credits are available for managing more water onsite.
Section 5, Materials, includes the most opportunity for credits, up to 41. Selecting suppliers that meet certain sustainability criteria can bring up to 5 points. Note that projects achieving LEED credit, can also lead to Sustainable Sites credit, but not in the reverse in terms of site assessment or construction credits.
Any site can go through Sustainable Sites—from open space, to streets, government projects. If you’re not sure, contact us Micah said. The minimum size requirement is 2,000 sq. ft. New construction and major renovations are eligible, the process must be completed within two years of construction. “Site assessment, if done right, will make the rest of the process much easier,” said Jamie.
The heavy documentation-based process requires paying registration and certification fees that allow access to worksheets, documents and guides. Micah said Sustainable Sites Reviewers from GBCI are available at any time to answer questions. It’s possible to split the Sustainable Sites review, by submitting design process credits and then other credits at the end of the project. But the project must be completed for it to be rated.
Fees on average are $8,000 for both the certification and registration. Projects that include both Sustainable Sites and LEED could potentially be bundled.
Sustainable Sites rating during the pilot phase was made by stars, but now the program aligns with LEED: Platinum (135 points/200); Gold (100/200); Silver (85/200); and Certified (70/200).
During the question and answer period at the end of the webinar Jamie and Micah acknowledged that pilot users had difficulty with documentation for certain credits, for example, soils. That experience has been incorporated into V2. “We expect we will have to make revisions. If people have suggestions and they see issues, please contact us,” Jamie said.
GBCI is also currently exploring options on what a Sites credential or professional certificate might look like. Also under consideration is a Sustainable Sites add on for on-going site performance.
“Sites is here to engage at a very deep level,” Micah said. “We will answer questions immediately and be responsive.” For technical questions, email the Sites team at email@example.com.
In June, GBCI announced they had acquired Sustainable Sites, a rating system developed by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden.