From: Allyson Wendt, ENN
Published November 5, 2007 12:22 PM

Group to Create Rating System for Landscapes

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has been working with the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas–Austin since 2005 to research environmentally friendly landscapes for building sites, parks, and public areas. In 2006, the U.S. Botanic Garden joined the effort, and now the group is going public with its Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI), a project to develop guidelines by 2009 and a rating system for landscapes by 2012.

According to Jim Lapides, manager of public relations for ASLA, the guidelines and rating system will focus primarily on hydrology, soils, vegetation, materials, and human well-being. Technical subcommittees are currently researching these areas, and the first of three research reports from the group will be released for public comment by November 2007.



The SSI group will use the research to create a rating system awarding points for certain actions and design features. Lapides suggested that the rating system would likely take a pragmatic approach: “The product will be based on all of the available science but will offer practical ways of implementing that science,” he said. Heather Venhaus, ASLA, project manager for SSI, notes that one of the goals of the group’s research is to better integrate the design of the landscape with that of the building and to explore ways in which landscapes can be regenerative.

“In an ideal world,” she said, “I’d want to change the paradigm in which we design, construct, and maintain our landscapes.” A pilot phase of the rating system is scheduled for 2011, with the final system and reference guide due in 2012. Although it will work as a stand-alone rating system, “one of the main goals of SSI is that it can be incorporated into other green rating systems and guidelines,” said Lapides.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has agreed to support the project and incorporate the guidelines and rating system into its LEED Rating System. According to Deon Glaser, ASLA, LEED program coordinator and a member of the SSI product development committee, “USGBC wants to expand its scope” by incorporating the landscape guidelines. Although it will be several years before the rating system is available, the research reports and an SSI website will prove useful immediately. “Our goal is to give people the tools to create a sustainable landscape,” said Lapides, noting that “people can use the [November 2007] report right away in their practices.”



For more information:



Sustainable Sites Initiative


American Society of Landscape Architects


Washington, D.C.


202-898-2444, 888-999-2752




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