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ASLA Launches Sustainable Rating System

ASLA CEO Nancy Somerville (right) moderated the press conference announcing the work underway on the Sustainable Sites Initiative, a program to develop a sustainable landscape design (SLD) rating system. Frederick Steiner, FASLA (left), dean of the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, is on the soil committee, one of four SLD "metrics." Hydrology, vegetation and materials are the other three. "We are acutely aware that the best guidelines and standards in the world will not be adopted if they are not cost-effective for builders and landowners," Mr. Steiner noted.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden are developing a rating system for sustainable landscape design, called the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

ASLA announced the initiative at an Oct. 6 press conference held at San Francisco's Moscone Center during the ASLA annual meeting.

The new system is in response to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, which measures a building's environmental impact. These standards, however, lack comprehensive criteria for sustainable landscapes and site components. LEED addresses some site issues, but does not fully address landscape sustainability. The USGBC recognizes the need within LEED to improve the site components and supports the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI).

Sustainable landscape, ASLA predicts, can save billions and reduce maintenance. The ASLA says the new initiative will measure the "sustainability of designed landscapes of all types, including public, commercial and residential projects."

SSI actually began in 2005. Today, 10 organizations and a subcommittee of 30 experts in a broad range of fields are identifying best practices and working on the standards. Three reports will be developed between 2007 and 2009, with time for feedback from interested groups. It will take years to fully realize these standards. LASN, which attended the news conference, asked how long the process might take. ASLA CEO Nancy Somerville projected a date of 2012, however, individual standards could be adopted by the USGBC into the LEED system long before then.

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December 6, 2019, 12:46 pm PDT

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