SITES v2 Rating System + Reference Guide

SITES® v2 is the most comprehensive system for developing sustainable landscapes. It is used by landscape architects, designers, engineers, architects, developers, policy-makers, and others to guide land design and development.

SITES v2 Reference Guide available now!

Every firm, university, and city should have this in its library. Complementary to LEED®, the SITES v2 Reference Guide is the go-to resource for sustainable land design and development. This set of guidelines and performance-based metrics is a culmination of seven years of research and development with input from thousands of practitioners, scientists, and policymakers. It is geared towards those who work in landscape design, construction, and maintenance. With extensive information including illustrated examples, resources, and tips, the SITES v2 Reference Guide provides insight on setting measurable performance goals and applying best practices to any type of development project.

What is the difference between the SITES v2 Rating System e-document and the SITES v2 Reference Guide?

The SITES v2 Rating System (available as a free e-document) is a complete set of prerequisites and credits that are used for measuring site sustainability. The e-document contains the intent and requirements of each prerequisite and credit, the associated point levels for credits, recommended strategies, and key definitions. The 18 prerequisites and 48 credits total 200 points and four certification levels are distinguished by the percentage of credit points achieved. Additionally, projects that employ innovative strategies and exemplary performance can receive bonus points. Using the Rating System e-document and the associated scorecard, project teams can determine if pursuing SITES certification is appropriate for a project. The SITES v2 Rating System e-document and the scorecard are available in Bundles #1-3 noted above.

The SITES v2 Reference Guide (available as an e-document and hard copy) 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. It also contains graphics that illustrate which prerequisites and credits relate to each other across the entire system, so project teams can minimize their documentation efforts while potentially maximizing their site performance and overall score. The SITES v2 Reference Guide e-document is avaialble in Bundles #2-3 and the hard copy is avialable in Bundle #3.

What is SITES v2?

SITES v2 is the first rating system available for the public to use to pursue certification as a sustainable landscape. It is a culmination of seven years of research and development by a diverse group of experts in soils, water, vegetation, materials and human health and well-being. Originally modeled after the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Rating System, SITES v2 includes best practices in landscape architecture, ecological restoration, and related fields, and knowledge gained through peer-reviewed literature, case-study precedents, and projects registered in the SITES Pilot Program.

SITES v2 is intended to be a living product that will evolve over time as research and experience generate more knowledge. It encompasses a series of prerequisites that a landscape needs to have before it can be considered for certification as a sustainable landscape. Once prerequisites are met, land development teams consider which of a suite of possible credits they will pursue in the development of their projects that serve as measures of their site’s sustainability and landscape performance. These credits relate to how a site is planned, designed, constructed and/or maintained with sustainability in mind. 

SITES v2 accommodates regional differences and various sites (e.g., urban, suburban, or rural locations; previously developed or undeveloped sites). While SITES can be applied worldwide, some references are specific to the Unites States. Project teams in other countries are responsible for referencing and documenting comparable local resources. For sites that include buildings, SITES v2 focuses on the area from the building skin outwards. The SITES program supports and encourages projects that plan to pursue simultaneous certification with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating Systems and SITES v2.

SITES v2 can be applied to a diverse set of landscape project types, including those with buildings, and on projects that are new construction or major renovations. This includes landscape projects at corporate headquarters, national and city parks, academic campuses, streetscapes, and residential neighborhoods or private homes. SITES v2 covers all stages of the land development process from selecting the most appropriate site, to the design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes. By providing performance measures rather than prescribing practices, SITES supports the unique conditions of each site and encourages project teams to be flexible and creative as they design and develop beautiful, functional, and regenerative sites appropriate for their context and intended use. SITES v2 evolved from the Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009 (i.e. SITES 2009 Rating System or version 1). Please note that the SITES v2 Rating System has replaced the Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009. Those familiar with this previous rating system may be wondering what some of the major differences are between the two systems. These graphics illustrate the major changes to the system, such as relocated, combined, and new credits and prerequisites.

Why sustainable landscapes?

Sustainable landscapes reduce water demand, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, increase outdoor recreation opportunities, among many other benefits. Click here to learn more.

Educational Opportunities

The SITES program will also be offering a series of educational webinars geared to inform audiences and increase their knowledge and understanding of the SITES program and respective rating system.