Report Provides Tips for Sustainable Landscapes
A report released on Nov. 1 seeks to help usher sustainable landscape design into mainstream use.
Featuring more than 200 recommendations for designing and building
sustainable landscapes, the report is part of the Sustainable Sites
Initiative, a partnership between the American Society of Landscape
Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the
University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to
create voluntary guidelines and a rating system for sustainable
landscape design. The report is available at http://www.sustainablesites.org.
"We want to identify the gold standards in sustainable landscape
design and marry them to a practical, real-world approach so that
designers, planners, builders and developers can utilize them," said
Nancy Somerville, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. "This
report is an important step to bring sustainable landscape practices
into widespread use."
The preliminary report on standards and guidelines represents
thousands of hours of work in the past year by 32 experts in fields
ranging from design and construction to soils, hydrology, and public
health. The findings examine the positive environmental impact
sustainable landscapes offer. For example, appropriate vegetation can
help control erosion, filter out pollutants, provide habitat for
wildlife and pollinators and supply oxygen for the air. The preliminary
report also details practices that degrade landscapes and should be
avoided, as well as techniques for designing landscapes that benefit
"The truly exciting thing about sustainable landscapes is that they
actually help us confront some of the most serious environmental
problems the world is facing now, including climate change," said Susan
Rieff, executive director of the Wildflower Center. "Plants absorb
carbon dioxide --- a greenhouse gas and a major cause of global warming
--- from the air and soils can capture it and hold it. Native grasses
may be even more effective in sequestering carbon than trees. This can
help mitigate climate change."
"People want to do the right thing, "said Holly Shimizu, executive
director of the United States Botanic Garden, "but they need
guidelines. The standards developed under Sustainable Sites will
integrate landscape into the overall green movement. Without the
landscape component, a truly sustainable lifestyle isn't possible."
The preliminary report is the first of three for the Sustainable
Sites Initiative. A primary purpose of releasing this preliminary work
is to solicit feedback, comments and additional information from
professionals and other stakeholders who can contribute to knowledge
about ways to achieve sustainable landscapes. Interested people can
join the review process at http://www.sustainablesites.org. Comments are due by Jan. 11, 2008.
Eventually, Sustainable Sites will create a rating system that will
apply to large and small sites, and can be used independently or
incorporated into other green rating systems. The U.S. Green Building
Council is lending its support to this project and plans to adopt the
Sustainable Sites metrics into future versions of LEED® (Leadership in
Energy and Environmental design) Green Building Rating System.
After feedback is gathered from the review process, a comprehensive
report will be published in October 2008 with the release of final
standards and guidelines for sustainable sites planned for May 2009.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative plans to produce a rating system by
May 2011 and test the guidelines with pilot projects in 2010 and 2011.
Additional program partners include the U.S. Green Building Council,
the Environmental Protection Agency'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 http://www.sustainablesites.org.