Tracing the roots of the sustainable sites initiative



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It is a commonly held that there is a powerful triumvirate to a perfect storm: High pressure, low pressure and that which is at risk. In the year 2011, on planet earth, it is profoundly true that mankind is in the midst of a perfect storm. This storm is challenging him to examine modern life as he knows it, is provoking him to meet change, and is most certainly shifting him to a new paradigm of existence. This storm is the sustainability movement. While architecture and structural disciplines currently have a formalized working framework to evaluate sustainability in building, Landscape Architecture has not previously used a ratified or professional method of evaluating conservation and sustainability efforts in performance. In 2009 The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in a collaborative effort with The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and The United States Botanical Garden developed the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI or SITES) offering an index for measuring sustainability in landscape practices. The purpose of this study is to track the winds of this perfect storm, to investigate pressures brewing in this revolution, to look at the environmental risks we face, to analyze the codependence between the factors and to prove how they influence the guiding principles of this SITES initiative. In a cursory exercise the author will examine the utility of this rating system as applied to a design on a given site based on a demanding program for capturing sustainable opportunities. This exercise should approximate the experience of an entry level professional using the new criteria and guidelines and offer insight to the SITES program as it emerges to encourage and impact sustainable outcomes in land planning and development.



Sustainability and the environment, Sustainability, Sustainable sites initiative, Landscape architecture, Economics, Natural resources