SITES Rating System
SITES is a sustainability-focused framework that ushers landscape architects, engineers and others toward practices that protect ecosystems and enhance the mosaic of benefits they continuously provide our communities, such as climate regulation, carbon storage and flood mitigation. SITES is the culmination of years of research and development by leading professionals in the fields of soil, water, vegetation, materials and human health.
By providing performance measures rather than prescribing practices, SITES supports the unique conditions of each site, encouraging project teams to be flexible and creative as they develop beautiful, functional and regenerative landscapes.
SITES-certified landscapes help reduce water demand, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health and increase outdoor recreation opportunities.
SITES certification is based on a point system: the number of points that a project earns determines the certification level it receives. The SITES certification process allows projects to benchmark against performance criteria. The process is performed through SITES Online, which is a simplified tool designed to register a project, provide worksheets to aid in project documentation and track projects from start to finish.
|SITES Certified||70-84 points earned|
|SITES Silver||85-99 points earned|
|SITES Gold||100-134 points earned|
|SITES Platinum||135+ points earned|
Synergies between SITES and LEED
The SITES and LEED rating systems are complementary, and can be used independently or in tandem. If you would like your project to benefit from certifying to both SITES and LEED, you can take advantage of the synergies between them. As a reminder, the LEED rating system applies to your project building and the site it is located on, while the SITES rating system applies to everything on your site, except your building (with a few exceptions).
Download the LEED-SITES Synergies documents to learn more about how SITES interfaces with LEED BD+C and ND rating systems (v4/v2009). Please also note that a project that receives SITES Gold certification automatically earns the credits in the Sustainable Sites category in LEED v4.
Eligibility and Fees
SITES certification applies to new construction projects as well as existing sites that include major renovations. Ideally, a project should be constructed within the last two years at the time of registration to ensure the team can access any necessary documentation to provide credit compliance. There is no maximum size for a SITES project, but the minimum is set at 2,000 square feet (or 185.8 square meters). SITES can be applied worldwide to a variety of projects types (with or without buildings), including:
Local, state and national parks; botanic gardens; arboretums
Streetscapes and plazas
Retail and office areas; corporate campuses
Neighborhoods or individual yards
Public and private campuses; museums; hospitals
|USGBC and ASLA Members||Non-Members|
|Combined (Registration + Certification)||$8,000||$9,500|
The registration fee is calculated on a per-project basis and must be paid at the time of registration. The fee is discounted for ASLA members and USGBC members at the Silver level and above. An additional discount is offered if registration and certification fees are paid together at the time of a project’s registration. A project can register at any time in the design and development process. It is strongly recommended that a project register at the earliest stages to gain access to the SITES v2 worksheets, working with GBCI more closely, and to track progress accordingly.
This is an optional review pathway for projects that is focused on a project’s plan, including its intended design and construction strategies. Precertification can help projects attract community supporters, funders, and can even expedite permitting in some localities. It helps guide the project team and client in determining which credits and prerequisites their project is likely to achieve during the full certification review. If a project chooses to continue on to a full certification review pathway, the remaining fee is the certification fee only.
The certification fee is charged on a per-project basis. It is due before submitting a project’s application for a certification review. The fee is discounted for ASLA members and USGBC members at the Silver level and above. An additional discount is offered if certification and registration fees are paid together at the time of a project’s registration.
Guide to SITES Certification
A SITES certification marks a project’s commitment to sustainability. This guide covers the certification process, which involves four main steps. You also can download our free SITES Rating System for more information about prerequisites and credits for SITES certification.
Register your project in SITES Online by providing basic information and submitting the registration fee payment to receive access to SITES worksheets.
SITES Online is a web portal that you’ll use to complete registration information related to your project; submit payments; sign the GBCI certification agreement; and access a variety of tools and resources.
At this stage, you’ll also assemble your project team, which includes at a minimum the owner (or owner’s agent) and the project administrator.
The owner is the person (or entity) who has the authority to hold and control the real and personal property associated with the project and accepts the certification agreement. If desired, the owner can grant authority to an agent to act on his or her behalf. The project administrator acts as a project manager, overseeing the SITES project as well as which team members are responsible for certain tasks, credits and prerequisites.
Collect and submit the necessary documentation to enable a GBCI review of your project. GBCI offers two review paths for SITES projects: Standard and Split Reviews. See Step #3 below for more detail on these two review paths. Once your project is ready for a review, please contact the SITES administrator or email@example.com for access to your project’s fileserver for uploading documentation.
Working with your project team, you should identify which SITES credits to pursue and assign them to members. Your team then should collect information, perform calculations and analysis, and prepare documentation demonstrating your achievement of the prerequisites and your selected credits. Documentation requirements are outlined in detail with examples and calculations in the SITES v2 Reference Guide (PDF, print). If you have technical questions during this process, you can send them directly to GBCI.
Precertification Review: A team may choose to apply for precertification. This is an optional review pathway available for a fee for SITES projects that is focused on the project’s plan, including the intended design and construction strategies. We offer precertification prior to a full certification application to help your team determine which credits and prerequisites your project is likely to achieve during the full certification review. It can also help attract community supporters and funders, and may provide permitting benefits in certain localities. If you are interested in pursuing precertification, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Before you complete the application and submit your project for review, you have the opportunity to request a conference call directly with your reviewer.
GBCI will conduct a thorough examination of your project.
GBCI offers two review paths for SITES projects: standard and split.
The standard review path is where you’ll submit your entire application (i.e., all the prerequisites and credits the project is pursuing). The split review — designed to let you know if your project is on the right path — allows you to submit part of your application at the end of your project’s design phase (typically Sections 1-6 in the SITES v2 Rating System) and the rest at the end of construction (typically Sections 7-10 in the SITES v2 Rating System).
Once you select your overall path, there are several general stages of review:
Preliminary Review (20-25 business days)
Here, GBCI will determine if your project complies with prerequisites and attempted credits. You can accept the results from GBCI, or submit new or revised documentation for another review. If you have questions about the review comments you received, you have the opportunity to schedule another conference call with your reviewer prior to submitting for a final review.
Final Review (20-25 business days)
GBCI will review the resubmitted documentation (if any) for compliance. Just like in the preliminary review stage, you can either accept the results from GBCI, or resubmit your application as an appeal if necessary.
Appeal Review (20-25 business days, fees apply)
At this stage, you can submit additional information, modify your application, or add new credits previously not attempted. You can accept the results from GBCI as final, or submit a further appeal. There’s no cap on the number of appeals you can submit.
Sign off on your project’s final review. If yout project has achieved certification, congratulations!
Accepting GBCI’s final review is the last step in the SITES certification process. At this point you can no longer appeal the certification level or review decisions for specific credits or prerequisites. If you’ve earned certification, congratulations! You will receive a formal certificate of recognition, and you can begin to promote this achievement.
Revocation of SITES certification
In rare situations, a SITES certification may be revoked. We’ve created the Certification Challenge Policy to ensure that all SITES project proposals and subsequent reviews by GBCI team members are done so with integrity, accuracy and truthfulness. A certification challenge may be initiated by GBCI or by any third party within 18 months of a project’s certification. We recommend that you retain all project documentation related to your certification for two years in case of a challenge.