12 Projects Certified by Nation’s Most Comprehensive Landscape Sustainability Rating System
April 1, 2015—The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) program has certified sustainable landscapes at a dozen new locations across the country for meeting rigorous standards for environmental design and performance. These 12 landscapes include a historic Maryland home of George Washington, a pocket park in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, and a public children’s garden in Austin, Texas.
These 12 projects are the last to be certified using a pilot version of the SITES v2 Rating System. They join 34 others that have achieved certification for voluntarily applying the SITES system to incorporate sustainability into their planning, design, construction and maintenance. SITES projects have now been certified in 20 states.
“Americans can directly address major environmental challenges we face today – diminishing water supplies, climate change, pollution and loss of wildlife habitat – by how they design and manage landscapes where they live, work and play,” said Susan Rieff, executive director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which helps lead the SITES program. “The SITES program approach, now increasingly adopted by landscape architects, designers and others, provides a practical blueprint for creating healthy landscapes, and recognizes exemplary projects to inspire others.”
SITES is a collaboration of the Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden and the American Society of Landscape Architects. The dozen newly certified projects that helped field-test the 2009 version of the sustainable landscape rating system are located at: Anacostia Watershed Society Headquarters in Bladensburg, Md.; Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park in Silver Spring, Md.; Boeddeker Park in San Francisco; Hempstead Plains Interpretive Center in Garden City, N.Y.; Luci and Ian Family Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas; a U.S. federal office building in Miramar, Fla.; the Environmental Laboratory for Sustainability and Ecological Education in San Jose, Calif.; HELIX Environmental Planning Inc. in La Mesa, Calif.; New Orleans Festival and Recreation Complex in Louisiana; Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas; Swaner EcoCenter in Park City, Utah; and Tuthill Corporate Headquarters Campus in Burr Ridge, Ill.
“These diverse projects prove that you can develop beneficial landscapes of all types and sizes that clean the air, improve water quality, nurture our connection to nature and more,” said SITES Program Director Danielle Pieranunzi, who is based at the Wildflower Center.
The new projects certified using the SITES 2009 Rating System bring the total certified to 46. Each project received a rating from one to four stars. The pilot program informed the June 2014 release of the SITES v2 Rating System and Reference Guide.
Negotiations are under way with the Green Building Certification Institute to provide project certification to the requirements of the SITES v2 Rating System and a related professional credentialing program.
- Anacostia Watershed Society Headquarters, Three Stars, Anacostia Watershed Society, Bladensburg, Md. This landscape on .35 acres surrounds the historic George Washington House (circa 1752). The building now serves as headquarters for the Anacostia Watershed Society, which developed a public demonstration of a practical, aesthetic way to address the flow, collection and management of stormwater runoff from the site. Years of adjacent road realignments that raised the grades of surrounding lands had created poor drainage patterns throughout the site. With the help of volunteers, interns, staff and local business donations, the society was able to install permeable paving, a rainwater cistern, brick and dry-stream channels and rain gardens. The project demonstrates how sustainable stormwater management can be successfully incorporated within historic sites challenged with a limited budget and very restrictive site constraints.
- Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park, Three Stars, OCULUS — Landscape Architecture, Silver Spring, Md. The expansion of this neighborhood park with the addition of a vacant lot provided the impetus for developing a more natural treatment of park surfaces, and restoring a 300 linear foot section of a concrete-lined stream channel. This rehabilitated stream is a model for future naturalization efforts within Montgomery County.The renovated park also includes an informal play field and lawn areas, playground, a picnic area and shade structure, loop walking trails, a pedestrian bridge with riparian overlook area, contemplative seating areas, interactive public artwork, interpretive displays, connections to regional bikeway and public transit systems, natural meadow areas, and shady woodland areas.
- Boeddeker Park, Two Stars, The Trust for Public Land, San Francisco. This one-acre park developed by The Trust for Public Land and San Francisco Recreation and Parks provides the largest open space in San Francisco’s poorest, most dense and diverse neighborhood. What had been an undesirable, unsafe area for 50,000 nearby residents has become an inviting space that is open daily. The pocket park includes a state-of-the-art clubhouse, walking path, adult fitness equipment, children’s play area, lawn and plazas for community gatherings and a garden. Sustainable systems were prioritized from the start and are integrated throughout the site. Project partners conducted extensive community outreach at nearby senior and youth centers and elsewhere, and worked closely with local community partners to ensure a safe park that provides programs and activities for all ages. Key design and programming decisions were made through these community forums. The result is a model of civic engagement, inspiration, resource conservation and adaptability.
- Hempstead Plains Interpretive Center, Two Stars, RGR Landscape Architecture & Architecture PLLC, Garden City, N.Y. This is the only naturally occurring prairie east of the Allegheny Mountains. The design and development of HPIC – a low-impact building and site– in a heavily developed suburban area, secures the integrity of the parcel as a natural preserve and historic landmark. In addition, the Plains are located on the Nassau Community College campus and near several universities, providing classes with a learning lab about native prairie habitats and sustainable techniques and an experience for general visitors interested in experiencing prairie life. An entrance through native plantings leads to the new visitor’s center topped with a green roof; open and closed classrooms are provided. Handicapped-accessible and stabilized-soil trails lead to the natural paths in the native prairie. A cistern helps reduce the need for potable water. Solar energy provides power and the building is completely “off the grid.”
- Luci and Ian Family Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Two Stars, W. G. Smith Design, Austin, Texas. This garden showcases Texas native plants and landscapes while offering a unique, beautiful space for children and families to appreciate nature through exploration and to learn about plants, wildlife and water, and sustainable landscape design elements. The 4.5-acre space features more than 180 native Texas plant species and interactive features such as a nectar garden, a wildlife blind and pond, a “stumpery” made for tree climbing, and an area for building structures from natural materials. Sustainable practices are part of the fabric of the garden, and include plants that were salvaged pre-construction and replanted, and a rainwater harvesting system and rain gardens to demonstrate water conservation. Locally sourced pecan shells and crushed recycled glass are among the mulches. Stone harvested on site is used in features such as two caves, and non-potable water feeds a waterfall flowing into a recirculating creek with fish and tadpoles.
- U.S. Federal Office Building, Two Stars, GSA with Atkins Global, Miramar, Fla. This new building houses a key federal agency on a secure campus that includes a parking garage with a green wall and solar panels, pond and other sustainable features on a site that minimizes impacts and harmonizes the landscape with the nearby Florida Everglades.The site design incorporates wetlands throughout the project and in interior and exterior courtyards. These wetlands are visible from within the building. A jogging path occurs around the reconstructed wetlands and there are locations for gathering and relaxation. Structures are made of locally sourced materials with high recycled content and FSC-certified wood. Native and adaptive plant species occur site wide, creating a sustainable native plant community on aesthetically appealing grounds. The grounds also provide water-quality treatment for the project area.
- Environmental Laboratory for Sustainability and Ecological Education, One Star, Alrie Middlebrook, San Jose, Calif. This former concrete parking lot in downtown San Jose has become a shared garden space used for educational purposes. The tenants include a sustainable landscaping company, The California Native Garden Foundation and its nursery, and an on-site aquaponics farm. The Environmental Laboratory is used to teach schools how to build a sustainable garden education program and showcases a healthy land-use model. The site demonstrates urban food technologies such as vertical food towers, pallet gardens, composting, and gardening with perennial food plants. Drought-tolerant native plants reduce water use and provide wildlife habitat, restore soils and more. Drip irrigation is used for plantings, and water is reused through greywater systems. Many landscape components are made with recycled or reused material. The goal of ELSEE is to have this type of garden model adopted by 10,000 California schools by 2020.
- HELIX Environmental Planning Inc. Headquarters, One Star, HELIX Environmental Planning Inc., La Mesa, Calif. Landscape conversion of the environmental planning firm’s headquarters entailed the conversion of the landscape to a more regionally appropriate one. The project reduced potable water use for irrigation through rainwater harvesting and the use of native plants, and created a more usable outdoor space for employees, which has increased social interaction and supported healthy activities. The project is unique because it used the expertise of HELIX’s own employees in designing and implementing water-conserving and lower-maintenance landscapes.
- New Orleans Festival and Recreation Complex, One Star, Torre Design Consortium, New Orleans, La. A 55-acre abandoned golf course in New Orleans City Park was re-purposed to provide a public space, in conjunction with a Community Development Block Grant. Community input led to opportunities for exercise and outdoor play, and gathering spaces for families, schools and formal events. The project includes four multi-sport fields, a one-mile walking/biking path, a workout area with adult and child exercise equipment, a large constructed wetland area with meditation paths and a boardwalk, a playground, and a large “Reunion Pavilion” for seating, eating and socializing. Many oak and cypress trees were retained for shade and enjoyment.
- Perot Museum of Nature and Science, One Star, Talley Associates, Dallas, Texas. This 4.7-acre site on a former industrial brownfield is just north of downtown Dallas and west of the Arts District. An elevated freeway determines the sites southern boundary and is among nearby constraints. The project dovetails with the museum’s primary mission of working to “inspire minds through nature and science.” To achieve this, the site design was conceived as an abstraction of several native Texas landscape environments that are seamlessly integrated with the building’s architecture that covers much of the space. Starting at the southeast corner of the site, the podium structure of the building was planned to incorporate a vegetated roof system. The roof features plantings that depict different regions of Texas’ ecology: West Texas Caliche, Upland Prairie, Blackland Prairie and East Texas Forests/Wetlands.
- Swaner EcoCenter, One Star, CRSA, Park City, Utah. The EcoCenter provides visitors a starting point to experience the 1,200-acre Swaner Preserve, both of which are overseen by Utah State University. The preserve and building serve as places for teaching environmental science. Visitors also hike, bird watch and pursue other nature activities on site. The EcoCenter building demonstrates sustainable features such as solar panels and a cistern for rainwater collection that eliminates potable water use for irrigation and for flushing toilets. The acres of wetlands are protected by conservation easements. They undergo continuing restoration to improve water quality and wildlife habitat for elk, red fox and other animals such as 90 bird species. Visitors can enjoy an innovative boardwalk that minimized disturbance to land around the piers. Rather than using metal helical piers that produce such damage, the boardwalk piers are of salvaged trestle wood preserved by sitting in the Great Salt Lake for decades. Other approaches included selecting sustainable materials for outdoor seating, bike racks, and pathway pavers.
- Tuthill Corporate Headquarters Campus, One Star, Conservation Design Forum, Burr Ridge, Ill. The campus provides a workplace environment that honors the human psyche and improves the environment. The building was established on a minimal footprint and oriented to allow employees to easily access a pond/wetland and view it while indoors. Rainwater is collected and directed from the roof to the landscape. The entire site, except for the building footprint, pavement and small Buffalo grass turf edge, has been restored to hardy, native plant species obtained locally wherever possible. Locally sourced limestone was used in a terrace and patio that creates an authentic connection of the building to the local landscape. Invasive species have been removed, allowing the restoration of native grassland prairie and wetland fringe. The restored or recreated on-site landscaping and other elements virtually eliminate stormwater runoff and localized flooding.
For more information about the SITES program, visit www.sustainablesites.org.