Sustainable Sites Report Gets it Right


Austin, TX, November 1, 2007 – A report released today will help usher sustainable
landscape design into mainstream use. Featuring over 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

"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 we breathe. The preliminary report also details practices
that degrade landscapes and should be avoided, as well as techniques for
designing landscapes that benefit the environment.

"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

"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 persons can join this review
process at The review period lasts 45 days and comments are due by
January 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

About ASLA
Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional
association for landscape architects, representing more than 18,200 members in
48 professional chapters and 68 student chapters. Landscape architecture is a
comprehensive discipline of land analysis, planning, design, management,
preservation, and rehabilitation. ASLA promotes the landscape architecture
profession and advances the practice through advocacy, education, communication,
and fellowship. Members of the Society use their "ASLA" suffix after their names
to denote membership and their commitment to the highest ethical standards of
the profession. Learn more about landscape architecture online at

About the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower

The Lady Bird Johnson
Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to
increasing the sustainable use and conservation of native plants and landscapes.
Founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady, the Wildflower
Center maintains an extensive native plant botanic garden and offers
professional and adult education. The Wildflower Center also conducts research
on landscape restoration and plant conservation at its 279-acre site, promoting
the role of native plants in addressing ecological problems. Recent research
initiatives focus on native turf grasses, green roof technology in a
sub-tropical climate, prairie restoration methods including prescribed fire, the
control of invasive species, and ways in which native plants can aid in
combating climate change in urban landscapes. Learn more at 

About the United States Botanic

Dating from 1820, the United
States Botanic Garden (USBG) is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North
America. The Garden informs visitors about the importance and fundamental value
of plants to the well-being of humans and our planet. It also highlights the
diversity of plants worldwide, particularly their aesthetic, cultural, economic,
therapeutic, and ecological significance. Formally placed under the jurisdiction
of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress in 1856, the U.S. Botanic
Garden is administered through the Office of the Architect of the Capitol in the
Legislative Branch since 1934. With nearly a million visitors annually and
located on the National Mall, the USBG strives to demonstrate and promote
sustainable practices for individuals, organizations, and institutions. Learn
more online at


  1. I forgot to mention the definition of “sustainability” used in the report. It means using practices that “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” A good one!

  2. Susan: I can’t believe this posting didn’t generate more comments from readers. As you know, this is job one for me and others out here on the West Coast. I’ve been following the sustainable sites progress and starting to work some of their approach into landscape guidelines for all projects undertaken by the Santa Barbara, CA. But I think it would be best to await the final report, then buy in.

    Keep up the vigilant job of flying this flag. BG

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