SITES Ties Together the ASLA & Greenbuild Conferences & Inspires a Few Site Visits

Two of our Planning and Landscape Architecture Department staff, Joshua Sloan and Steve Cook, will be presenting at Greenbuild 2017 on the interrelationships between LEED for Neighborhood Development and the Sustainable SITES Initiative systems.  But many people are not familiar with the basics yet, so we offer a quick look back at the unveiling of the SITES program at last year’s conferences.

The annual conventions for the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the US Green Building Council (USGBC) had a particular unifying focus last year: the launch of the Sustainable SITES initiative V2. After several years and many test projects, SITES V2 is ready for primetime as the only sustainability-focused framework to create “beautiful, functional, and regenerative landscapes.”  SITES-certified landscapes focus on soil, water, vegetation, materials, and human health through performance measures, such as reducing water demand, providing wildlife habitat, and increasing outdoor recreation opportunities.  Like LEED, SITES is a point-based system with certification levels from certified to platinum.  About 20 hardy souls joined Josh after the ASLA convention to take the just-released SITES AP exam, and he became one of the first SITES accredited professionals in the country.

With such a strong focus on sustainable landscapes at each convention, Josh undertook a couple site visits with more of a focus, spending a good bit of time at the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens and the Pinecote Native Plant Center of The Crosby Arboretum. In addition, he had a chance to visit one of the sites where SITES was tested: the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh.  Here are a few images from these three sites and lessons learned that we can all apply in our drive to create more beautiful and sustainable landscapes.

Figure 1: As this example from the Center for Sustainable Landscapes shows, water features can capture and treat rainwater, provide habitat, store irrigation water, and inspire delight.

Figure 2: Local plants and materials can achieve the same beauty and functionality as exotic and expensive varieties at the Center.

Figure 3: Green roofs don’t just have to be planted with sedum; many perennials & even small shrubs can thrive on rooftop even through Pittsburgh’s winters.

Figure 4: The Huntington Library’s Botanical Gardens showcase the exuberant plantings you can achieve in hot, dry environments.

Figure 5: Xeriscaping in LA provides opportunities to highlight the “Seussian” world of cacti and other succulents.

Figure 6: The Backdrop of the Huntington Library is a perfect foil for varied colors in the fore- and mid-grounds.

Figure 7: As the Pinecote Native Plant Center of the Crosby Arboretum makes clear, there is great beauty in our regional landscapes.

Figure 8: The Arboretum encourages visitors to get up and close to appreciate the diverse colors and textures of the natural world.

Figure 9: Fay Jones’ Pinecote Pavilion reflects the local flora and instills a sense of place.

Figure 10: The various pines and cypress at the Arboretum inspired Fay Jones’ designs for the pavilion and other structures around the site.

As part of VIKA’s continuing efforts to support sustainable and smart growth projects, we have recently added a summary web page focusing on these efforts and will add blogs and news items over the coming months to keep our clients and community informed of new developments.