Certifying a landscape project under Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) can seem like an expensive, onerous process. So why bother?
For Jamie Statter, vice president at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), SITES gives landscape architects the “opportunity to do it right” and have an impact in the fight against climate change. In a session at GreenBuild in Los Angeles, she and two SITES consultants working with landscape architects on the first SITES v2 certified projects explained why it’s worth the extra effort.
With the recent launch of SITES Approved Professional (AP), landscape architects now have “the chance to get ahead and further differentiate themselves,” she added.
The first SITES v2 certified project is at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP):
Heather Venhaus, an environmental designer and author of Designing the Sustainable Site: Integrated Design Strategies for Small-Scale Sites and Residential Landscapes, was a consultant on this campus redesign project led by Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, at Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, achieving a SITES Silver rating.
As Venhaus explained, UTEP is among the top rated campuses for upward mobility, meaning many of its students are the first among their families to attend university, so this project is also about social equity.
For the university’s centennial celebration, they revamped their 11-acre, greyfield campus covered in parking lots, spending some $14 million to transform it into a landscape that not only reflects the beauty of the native Chihuahuan desert ecosystem, but also rebuilds the ancient arroyos (rivers) that were once covered over by parking lots. Due to all that asphalt, the campus had major flooding problems.
After those arroyos were restored, the water collected and infiltrated through the campus, managing water from up to a 95th percentile storm event. Any excess now flows out to the Rio Grande River instead of inundating the campus.
The Second SITES v2 Certified Project is the Chicago Navy Pier.
Bryan Astheimer, an architect and sustainability consultant at Re:Vision Architecture, worked with James Corner Field Operations to achieve SITES Gold certification for the transformation of the Chicago Navy Pier.
Sarah Weidner Astheimer, ASLA, principal, James Corner Field Operations, wrote: “We are excited to celebrate the gold SITES certification of Navy Pier’s South Dock, the first phase in its complete renovation. SITES informed much of our design process, from access and circulation studies to plant and material specifications. It was an important tool that kept our client, our contractor, and design team accountable to a high standard of best practices and resulted in an unprecedented project—the transformation of Chicago’s Navy Pier into an authentic and green destination reflective of the city’s identity.”
Photo of arroyos at University of Texas at El Paso by Ten Eyck Landscape Architects