New Rating System Seeks to Encourage Sustainable Landscape Design

On Oct. 6, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), The University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the U.S. Botanic Garden announced the development of a new rating system for sustainable landscape design, called the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

Just as the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED® rating system measures a building's environmental impact, the Sites Initiative will measure the sustainability of designed landscapes of all types, including public, commercial and residential projects. The U.S. Green Building Council is lending its support to this project and plans to adopt the Sustainable Sites metrics into its LEED® system once they are finished.

"This will provide the missing link for green building standards," said Nancy Somerville, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. "Developers, designers, owners and public officials will now have the tools at hand to significantly increase sustainability in the built environment, from interiors to landscapes."

"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," said Frederick R. Steiner, FASLA, dean of The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and a member of the Wildflower Center Advisory Council. "Sustainable landscapes have enormous environmental benefits, and any additional costs should be easily recovered over the life of the project in energy, water and other savings."

Holly Shimizu, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden, stated: "The U.S. Botanic Garden is extremely excited to be a part of the Sustainable Sites Initiative. We recognize that through partnerships and collaborations we can make a much greater impact on promoting and guiding sustainable design, implementation and management of gardens, landscapes and all outdoor spaces. This initiative will help balance the built and natural environments for the long-term health of communities nationwide."

Additional program partners include the U.S. Green Building Council, EPA's GreenScapes Program, the National Recreation and Parks Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers' Environment and Water Resources Institute, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Nature Conservancy's Global Invasive Species Initiative, and the Center for Sustainable Development at the University of Texas at Austin.

For more information, visit

Also search the Web site's archives for additional articles related to sustainability, including: "Study: Sustainability Becoming Mandatory Component of Business Model for Consumer Businesses."

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

Featured Webinar