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SITES Certifies First Landscape Projects

A pavilion overlooks the improved aquatic habitat at the St. Charles, Missouri campus of Novus International. The project was one of the first three certified by the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). It received a 3-star rating. Design practices included improved hydrology, enhancing wildlife habitat and improved soils and vegetation. There are two edible gardens on site, including a terraced vegetable garden. SWT Design and Novus partnered with the University of Missouri on the project. Photo: SWT Design

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas, Austin and the U.S. Botanic Garden since 2005, has announced its first certified projects among 150-plus pilot projects seeking certification since summer 2010.

  • St. Charles, Missouri campus of Novus International Inc. (3-star rating)
  • The Green at College Park, University of Texas at Arlington (1-star rating)
  • Woodland Discovery Playground, Shelby Farms Park, Memphis, Tenn. (1-star rating)

SITES, a voluntary, national rating system, fills a need for guidelines and recognition of green landscapes based on planning, design, construction and maintenance.

In June 2010, pilot projects began testing the rating system created by dozens of the country's leading sustainability experts, scientists and design professionals. The diverse projects were at various stages of development, with the goal of seeking up to a four-star rating upon completion.

The SITES rating system has 15 prerequisites, but 51 additional possible credits. The maximum point total is 250. Credits include such elements as soil amendment/restoration, using recycled materials and land maintenance. Projects are rated from one to four stars, corresponding to 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of those 250 points, respectively.

Among the features that warranted a 3-star SITES rating for the St. Charles, Missouri campus of Novus International was a parking lot with stormwater retention features, a walking trail that winds through restored prairie and other habitat and a vegetable garden that staff members maintain.

The Green at College Park project involved David Hopman, professor of landscape architecture working with Schrickel, Rollins and Associates to create an open lawn, pedestrian promenade, shade arbor and more on about three acres in downtown Arlington. The original site was mostly a parking lot with poor stormwater drainage that flooded a nearby creek. Now the green space next to Arlington's first mixed-use development features native and adapted plants in rain gardens, and water detention that helps slow the flow of stormwater and cleanse it for reuse for the new vegetation.

The conservancy that oversees Shelby Farms Park developed the Woodland Discovery Playground with James Corner Field Operations et al. A woodland was restored and a 4.25-acre playground developed based on input during workshops with children and adults. Recycled shoe/boot soles cushion several play areas. Permeable materials allow stormwater to nourish an arbor with native trees connecting the playrooms.

''The educational value of these pilot projects demonstrate what a sustainable site look and feel like, and now serve as a model to others aspiring for sustainability in a designed landscape,'' said Holly Shimizu, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

SITES will continue to receive feedback from certified projects and the remaining pilot projects until June 2012. That input, and the public's, will go to finalizing the rating system and reference guide, expected to be released widely in 2013.

For more information on the first three projects certified by SITES, visit

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November 19, 2019, 11:06 pm PDT

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