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To have a member of the SITES team speak at your next conference or event, please fill out the Speaker Request Form.

SITES Certification

Why does sustainability matter for landscapes?

Population growth and development are causing our communities to use more resources than ever before, which means more waste and a negative impact on the environment. Traditional land development and land use decisions often underestimate or ignore healthy ecosystems. Sustainable land development is cost effective, better for the land and fosters resiliency.

Through thoughtful design and management, landscapes can be developed to help sustain the natural world we live in by incorporating native vegetation, healthy soils and existing ecosystems. Our communities depend on the functions of ecosystems, which have nutrient-rich soil and provide us with clean air and water.


Landscapes, infrastructure and buildings are often designed without regard to their harmful impacts on scarce resources, underlying ecological systems and quality of life in the community.

The Sustainable SITES Initiative aims to weave development of healthy natural ecosystems with the landscape of daily human activity, via the spaces and places we inhabit, by providing a systematic, comprehensive set of guidelines to model development practices after healthy systems and processes.

Sustainable landscapes provide ecosystem services and create ecologically resilient communities better able to withstand and recover from floods, droughts, wildfires and other catastrophic events. SITES-certified landscapes additionally 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.

The SITES certification process allows projects to benchmark against performance criteria. The process is performed through SITES Online, which is a clean and easy tool to allow for easy documentation. SITES Online also helps with managing the SITES project team and tracking the project from start to finish.

What’s the process like to achieve SITES certification?

The SITES Rating System is a 200-point system with four certification levels of achievement (projects must meet a minimum of 70 points to achieve certification). The 18 prerequisites within the rating system are required, plus the minimum number of credits to achieve the required certification level.

A SITES certification involves registering the project with the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI); working through the SITES prerequisites and credits through a process with an integrated design team; applying for SITES certification by submitting a completed certification application and paying the fee; and receiving the certification decision after the formal review process is complete.

Please visit the Guide to SITES certification for more information.

Who certifies SITES projects?

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) administers a SITES certification. GBCI is the only certification and credentialing body within the green business and sustainability industry to exclusively administer project certifications and professional credentials and certificates of LEED, PEER, WELL, SITES and GRESB.

What fees are involved if I want to register my project for SITES certification?

Registration and certification fees are flat, not based on project size. View our fee table.

What are the eligibility requirements to apply for a SITES certification?

The SITES Rating System can apply to development projects located on sites with or without buildings. Your site must have been constructed within the last two years and be at least 2,000 square feet in order to be eligible to apply for a SITES certification. Eligible sites include:

  • Open spaces: local, state and national parks; botanic gardens; arboretums
  • Streetscapes and plazas
  • Parking lots
  • Commercial: retail and office areas; corporate campuses
  • Residential: neighborhoods or individual yards
  • Educational/Institutional: public and private campuses; museums; hospitals
  • Infrastructure
  • Government
  • Military
  • Industrial parks
  • Golf courses
  • Cemeteries
How do I get started with SITES?

To get started with SITES, your project team may want to view:

  • The SITES Rating System is available for download; this free download includes the SITES v2 rating system, a complete set of prerequisites and credits used to measure site sustainability, and a corresponding scorecard.
  • The Guide to SITES certification describes the certification process and also includes information on fees.
  • The SITES v2 Reference Guide contains the v2 Rating System plus additional information for projects pursuing certification, including what submittal documentation is needed to meet the requirements, guidance on how to do calculations and prepare documentation, resources and additional definitions.
  • The SITES webinar series provides an overview of the SITES program and the benefits of sustainable landscapes.
My project has been certified. How can I promote or market the certification?

Review our PR Guidelines for ways to promote your project's recent certification.

What resources are available to help educate my client about SITES?

In addition to the SITES v2 Rating System and Reference Guide, please download a copy of our complimentary slide presentation called the SITES Client Deck that outlines the business case for SITES.

How do I stay up-to-date with SITES?

We'd love to have you join our mailing list to receive the most up-to-date information about SITES. Visit www.sustainablesites.org and enter your name and email address at the bottom of the page to subscribe to our monthly updates.

What are the benefits of SITES?

For environmental designers, their clients, and the general public, SITES offers several significant benefits and values:

  • SITES advances best practices in landscape architecture and other environmental design professions,
  • SITES may help design professionals fulfill their health, safety, and welfare responsibilities for licensure,
  • clients can be assured that their project has achieved rigorous, field-tested standards for sustainability,
  • clients can market the SITES certification of their projects (as many do for the LEED® green building program), and
  • SITES is ethically responsible, protects natural systems for present-day use and appreciation, and preserves ecosystems and their essential services for future generations.
What type of support is provided by GBCI for SITES Project Teams?

In short, we:

  • provide the SITES v2 Rating System, Scorecard, and in-depth SITES v2 Reference Guide full of resources
  • offer case studies on our website
  • answer questions via email at any time (via sites@gbci.org)
  • after registration, we offer access to worksheets and calculators, SITES Online portal and provide one-on-one, project-specific support
  • we assist teams outside of the US to create equivalent requirements
  • we assist project teams pursuing both SITES and LEED
  • offer optional pre-review calls with GBCI reviewers (email sites@gbci.org to schedule)
  • provide SITES review results
  • post certification - we provide a Certificate, press kit, press release and feature the project prominently on our website.

GBCI provides support to project teams pursuing SITES certification throughout the process—from pre-design through post-certification—through a variety of tools and project-specific one-on-one support. Our team will work with project teams to help identify local resources, answer eligibility and prerequisite requirements and field technical questions. At each stage of review, project teams have the opportunity to speak directly with their reviewer. Post certification, GBCI provides a SITES Certificate along with review comments, a press release and media kit to help celebrate the successes of a project team. SITES Certified projects are then listed on our website and showcased through our PR team.

Can my international project apply for SITES?

Yes, SITES may be applied worldwide and we'd love to have projects from outside of the United States participate in SITES certification. Our team is more than happy to work with project teams on a one-on-one basis to adapt US references, standards and guidelines to localized resources, where applicable. 

Is there an option in SITES to certify plans and intended strategies?

A project team can choose to have GBCI review their project’s plans and intended design and construction strategies to see how it aligns with SITES criteria rather than, or prior to a full certification review. This review pathway is called Precertification and it is available to all SITES registered projects for a fee.

We offer precertification to help you determine which credits and prerequisites your project is likely to achieve during the full review, to demonstrate your commitment to site sustainability and resilience. It can also help market the unique and valuable features of your project to attract community support, funders and even influence permitting in some localities. For more information, please contact sites@gbci.org.

What is SITES Precertification*, and how does it work?

Precertification* is an optional review pathway available for all SITES registered projects. We offer precertification to help you determine which credits and prerequisites your project is likely to achieve during the full review, to demonstrate your commitment to site sustainability and resilience. It can also help market the unique and valuable features of your project to attract community support, funders and even influence permitting in some localities.

The project will receive a SITES Precertification Worksheet to guide the process. The Precertification Worksheet allows you to decide your compliance path for each required prerequisite and each credit that you will be pursuing. In the worksheet, you’ll also describe your strategy for meeting the requirements of that credit and the pathway that you’ve chosen. You will also complete your preliminary scorecard to demonstrate which and how many points you will be pursuing. Once the compliance pathway and strategy for all prerequisites and pursued credits (must be enough to achieve certification) has been approved by GBCI, the project will achieve SITES Precertification.

A Precertified project can also choose to continue to full certification to demonstrate their leadership in site sustainability and resilience for their built project, and to join the growing number of SITES certified projects around the world. For more information, please contact sites@gbci.org

*Please note that precertification expires three years after achievement.


What is a SITES AP?

A SITES AP is an individual who possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to support the SITES certification process, including participating in the design and development process, supporting and encouraging integrated design, managing the application and certification process, and providing advocacy and education for the adoption of SITES.

How can I register for the SITES AP exam?

Visit SITES Online to create an account and register for the SITES AP exam.

How do I schedule an exam?

Once registered, you will be able to schedule your test session at a Prometric testing center near you. Exam sessions are available year round through Prometric test centers worldwide. If you would like to locate your nearest testing center and view availability, please visit prometric.com/gbci and click on "Locate."

What are the eligibility requirements to sit for the SITES AP exam?

To be eligible to sit for the SITES AP exam, applicants must be at least 18 years of age. There are no other prerequisites to sit for the WELL AP exam, though prior SITES project experience is highly recommended.

How much does it cost to take the SITES AP exam?

Please see the SITES AP exam fee structure on our website.

What is the minimum score I need to receive to pass the exam?

A candidate must earn a scaled score of 170. The scaled score for all GBCI exams ranges from 125 – 200. The scaled score is calculated by taking the candidate’s raw score (total number of correct questions) and mapping it onto a standardized scale between 125 and 200, with the minimum competency threshold always mapped to a scaled score of 170. Scaled scoring is used as a best practice to manage and report the potential differences in difficultly across different exam forms.

Once I register for the exam, how long do I have to take the exam? Is an extension possible?

Once you register and pay for your exam, you have one year to schedule your exam session. You may contact GBCI to request one six month extension of this one-year period.

Can I reschedule an exam?

Prometric.com/gbci is available 24 hours per day for scheduling, rescheduling and confirming exam appointments. To schedule an exam, you will need to have first applied and registered with GBCI. To reschedule, cancel, or confirm, an exam appointment, you will need your Prometric-issued 16 digit confirmation number.

Can an exam be cancelled and refunded?

You can confirm, cancel or reschedule an exam on the Prometric website. You may reschedule or cancel your exam up 30 days prior to your exam without a fee. If you reschedule or cancel an exam fewer than 30 days but more than 3 days before the scheduled date, you will be charged a $50 fee. You cannot reschedule your exam after midnight on the third day before the scheduled appointment. (For example, Wednesday appointments cannot be rescheduled after Sunday at 11:59 p.m. EST)

When you reschedule an exam, you will receive a new email confirmation. If you do not, please contact Prometric immediately to confirm your exam was rescheduled.

Days until exam Refunds Reschedules
30 days or more Yes Yes
3-29 days Yes ($50 fee) Yes ($50 fee)
2 days or less No No
How soon will I receive the results from the exam?

Candidates sitting for the exam from 4/15-5/1 will receive results via email the week of 5/8. Starting 5/2, all results will be provided to candidates in real time, as well as emailed at the completion of the exam.

Can I retake the exam if I fail?

If your attempt was unsuccessful you may register again in the same way as initial registration. After three unsuccessful attempts, however, you must wait 90 days before submitting a new registration to GBCI. Candidates must pay the registration fee for each exam attempt.

Can I see the questions that I missed?

GBCI does not release exam content or answers or allow candidates to review proprietary content under any circumstances.

Can my exam score be reviewed?

Exam scoring is standardized through a computerized algorithmic process, which is applied exactly the same way to all GBCI exams that are taken. GBCI will investigate exam scores only in instances of technical malfunctions at the test site.

What study resources are available? Are any sample questions available?

The SITES Rating System and the SITES Reference Guide are both helpful resources. The test specifications, as well as sample questions, are also available in the SITES AP Candidate Handbook.

Are there any Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) requirements for SITES AP and do they align with LEED and WELL AP CMP requirements?

Yes, there are CMP requirements for the SITES AP. There has been an overall effort to align the SITES, LEED and WELL APs as much as possible. For more information about CMP requirements for both the SITES, LEED and WELL credentials, please visit the GBCI CMP Guide.

What's involved in the process of creating the SITES AP?

Conception: GBCI will bring together leading experts in the fields of sustainable landscape design to form a Job Analysis Committee. This committee will include landscape architects, planners, consultants, horticulturalists and water, soil and human health specialists from the public, private and nonprofit sectors. The committee will be responsible for creating content areas that lay the groundwork for building the SITES AP exam.

Validation: GBCI will enlist the help of a wider group of subject matter experts, who will review the content areas and their relative importance through the SITES AP Job Analysis Survey. The survey will give experts in the sustainable landscape community an opportunity to contribute to the SITES AP credential. GBCI will then gather and analyze results to create an exam blueprint, which will outline weight distribution for exam questions by content area.

Development: Once the blueprint is finalized, GBCI will enlist subject matter experts to write and review questions to appear on the SITES AP exam. With expert consensus, a well-rounded exam will be created and launched for the SITES AP credential. The exam will be finalized and placed into the testing platform for aspiring SITES AP candidates.