Why Sustainable Sites?
The services people enjoy from healthy ecosystems are the unobtrusive foundation of daily life. Yet people often underestimate or simply ignore the values from these "ecosystem services" when making land-use decisions - only to realize later how difficult, expensive, and sometimes impossible it is to replicate services once they are lost. The central message of the Sustainable Sites Initiative program is that any landscape - whether the site of a large subdivision, a shopping mall, a park, an abandoned rail yard, or even one home - holds the potential both to improve and to regenerate the natural benefits and services provided by ecosystems in their undeveloped state.
Conventional thinking about land design and development must be transformed and shifted toward approaches that conserve and restore natural systems, offset development impacts, mitigate hazards and provide the essential benefits humans and other organisms depend on for survival. Green building rating systems developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and other organizations offer excellent tools for new and existing buildings, yet a systematic comprehensive set of guidelines and a rating system is needed to define sustainable sites, measure their performance, and ultimately elevate the value of landscapes. By aligning land design and development practices with the functions of healthy ecosystems, the SITES Rating System demonstrates how the work of developers, property owners, landscape architects, engineers, planners, architects, and others can protect, restore, and enhance ecosystem services.