About SITES

The Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES®) is the most comprehensive program for developing sustainable landscapes. SITES offers a systematic, comprehensive rating system designed to define sustainable sites, measure their performance and elevate the value of landscapes.

Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. and existing as a complement to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED building certification, SITES is based on the understanding that land is a crucial component of the built environment and can be planned, designed, developed and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits we derive from healthy, functioning landscapes.

What is SITES?

  • SITES provides tools and best-practices for integrated, innovative design and land development and management. The SITES Rating System sets standards for sustainable site use for a wide range of development projects on with or without buildings–from open spaces, streetscapes and plazas, to commercial, residential and industrial projects.
  • SITES is based on the understanding that land is a crucial component of the built environment and can be planned, designed, developed and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits people derive from healthy, functioning landscapes through practices such as carbon storage, crop pollination and flood mitigation.

What is the SITES Rating System?

  • The SITES v2 Rating System sets the standard for sustainable landscape design, development and management. SITES is used by landscape architects, engineers, architects, developers and policy makers to align land development and management with innovative sustainable design.
  • The four overarching goals of the SITES Rating System are: to create regenerative systems and foster resiliency; ensure future resource supply and mitigate climate change; transform the market through design, development and maintenance practices; and enhance human wellbeing and strengthen the community.
  • SITES was developed through a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Botanic Garden.
  • In 2015, GBCI officially acquired SITES from the University of Texas and ASLA. GBCI launched project certification for the second version (v2) of SITES in June 2015. The SITES v2 Rating System draws on experience gained from a two-year pilot program involving more than 150 projects. SITES v2 has already seen projects registering across the world from New York to Los Angeles, to Vancouver to Hong Kong, to name a few locations. GBCI’s administration of the SITES Rating System enables the program to be taken to the next level and will ensure its future growth and influence toward market transformation.
  • Complementary to LEED certification, SITES certification comprises four levels distinguished by achievement of 18 prerequisites and 48 credits.

Why SITES?

  • Population growth and development are causing our communities to use more resources than ever before, which means more waste and a negative impact on the environment. Traditional land development and land use decisions often underestimate or ignore healthy ecosystems. Sustainable land development is cost-effective, better for the land and fosters resiliency.
  • The framework of SITES is based on the concept of ecosystem services, the benefits provided by the natural ecological processes working all around us that support our daily lives. Land is a crucial component of the built environment and can be planned, developed and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits we drive from healthy, functioning landscapes. SITES benefits the environment, property owners and local and regional communities and economies.
  • SITES-certified landscapes provide ecosystem services and create ecologically resilient communities that are better able to withstand and recover from floods, droughts, wildfires and other catastrophic events. Additionally, SITES-certified projects help reduce water demand by requiring less maintenance and filtering and reducing stormwater runoff. These projects involve no—or limited—pesticide use, conserve or restore natural resources, enable wildlife habitat and offset development impacts. They also reduce energy consumption, help sequester carbon, improve air quality and promote human health and wellbeing by connecting people to nature, to their communities and to each other.
  • SITES is designed for the future of the growing green building market. As a complement to USGBC’s LEED green building rating system for new and existing buildings, SITES addresses the market’s need for a way to quantify and rate the sustainable use and performance of land sites.

Updated April 2016