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Site Specific: A new#and still-evolving--sustainable rating system aims to protect and regenerate the ecological capacity of any landscape, from backyard to public park.
The building industry#s best known sustainable rating system has always acknowledged that the design and construction of a manmade structure must consider the surroundings. The earliest versions of the U.S. Green Building Council#s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system included categories for sustainable sites and water efficiency at the level of an individual project#and its more recent and less narrowly focused rating system for neighborhood development has greatly expanded its purview in terms of the selection of building sites and the relationships among buildings to protect local ecology. Nonetheless, LEED#s detailed requirements and recommendations for landscape strategies still barely scratch thesurface of what can and must be done to reverse the devastation that decades of poor design, construction, and maintenance practiceshave wrought on vital natural ecosystems, say many landscape architects.
While LEED has successfully increased the efficiency ofbuildings, the rating system currently leaves out many opportunities to address and improve the site. Recognizing this omission, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas in Austin hosted the Sustainable Sites Summit in fall 2005. Approximately 50 professionals, including landscape architects, civil engineers, government employees, scientists, and academics, attended themultidisciplinary meeting, from which grew the Sustainable Sites Initiative. Referred to in shorthand as SITES, the initiative is ahighly ambitious interdisciplinary effort to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for the sustainabledesign, construction, and maintenance of landscapes with or without buildings.
The entire design team, owners, developers, clients andgovernment institutions would benefit from reading this story.
1. Explain the goals of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) and discuss why a rating system specifically tailored to landscapes is needed.
2. Outline the structure and requirements of the current version of SITES.
3. Explain the concept of ecosystem services and describe how a landscape can provide such services.
4. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the current version of SITES.
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