Sustainable Sites Initiative
The Sustainable Sites Initiative is being adopted by the US Green
Building Council into the LEED program. Its purpose is to provide
standards for sustainable land practices that will increase ecological
benefits such as climate regulation, clean air and water, and improve
the quality of life. Points are awarded on a scale of low to
high for over 44 benchmarks, ranging from new site selection and
design through restoration. Restoration includes components of
ecology, human health, materials selection, construction activities
and maintenance and operations.
Now is a great time to incorporate these standards into your landscape
plan and be 'point-ready' when the updated LEED program is
Here are a few key opportunities for garnering LEED points:
Ecological - restore benefits of natural systems
- Minimize or eliminate potable water consumption for irrigation.
After the establishment phase, it is desirable to have the landscape
sustained without supplemental watering.
- Control and manage invasive species, such as buckthorn, garlic
mustard and others
- Increase plant biomass on site (using a weighted scale valuing
trees at the high end, manicured turf at a lower value) to offset
greenhouse gas emissions. We all benefit from clean air and climate
- Reduce building heating and cooling requirements with vegetation.
- Promote a sense of place with native vegetation. Native plants,
including their named cultivars, support diversity of life and a healthier
ecosystem than exotic species.
- Cleanse water on-site. Plants at the edge of retention ponds
provide filtering and cleansing benefits.
- Manage water on-site. Municipal water and waste-water treatment
facilities account for up to 50% of electricity consumed by
municipalities. Keep stormwater on site reduces utility costs. Using
permeable pavers, building rain gardens or other rain exchange
systems are a few ways to do this.
Human Health - Building strong communities and sense of stewardship
- Provide views of the natural environment to building occupants.
Desk workers report greater job productivity and fewer absences
when they can view or interact with nature.
- Provide opportunities for outdoor physical activity, social gathering
and interaction. Social connectedness plays a very important
role in human health, and we all know the benefits of moderate
- Provide opportunities for mental restoration. Work that demands
focused attention leads to mental and physical fatigue often
expressed as irritability. A brief interlude in a natural setting is restorative
and helps us get back on track with work.
- Optimize site accessibility, safety and wayfinding. This encourages
outdoor mobility by users.
- Design stormwater features to be a landscape amenity. It's the
old "two birds with one stone" idea. A bench for reflection, a small
patio for lunch or breaks, a path circling the area to encourage appreciation
of the natural area... the points just add up!
- Promote sustainability awareness and education. Educational
or interpretative elements help visitors understand how they can
apply similar practices at home or away from the site.
Operations and Maintenance - maintain the site for long-term sustainability.
- Recycle organic matter generated from operations and maintenance.
This can lower costs in purchased fertilizers pesticides and
- Provide for storage and collection of recyclables (including paper,
glass and plastics).
- Use renewable sources for site outdoor electricity. This helps
reduce the site's carbon footprint and minimize air pollution.
Minimize exposure to localized air pollutants. High points are
awarded where smoking is prohibited on the entire site.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative includes identifying and creating
action steps for 10 year desired outcomes. Moore Landscapes is
using this worksheet to evaluate sites and determine long range
goals for sustainable landscape management.
For further information on the Sustainable Sites Initiative, please