This article was originally published in Fall 2018's issue of USGBC+ by Catherine Shannon as "Eternally Green: Bala Cynwyd Cemetery Achieves SITES Certification for Sustainable Landscape Design." Read the original version.
West Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Nature Sanctuary is perhaps one of the most unique projects to achieve SITES Gold. SITES project types typically include public parks and gardens, trail and bike paths, streetscape designs, commercial and educational campuses and more.
As with LEED–certified projects, not only is the final space functional in regard to climate regulation, carbon storage and flood mitigation, it’s also beautiful and enhances the well-being of those who frequent the space.
But West Laurel Hill Nature Sanctuary is not, at least at first glance, your typical SITES project. While most may assume this is solely a public park (as indicated by the “nature sanctuary” part of its title), it’s actually, first and foremost, a green cemetery—the first of its kind to receive a SITES designation in the country. Which begs the question: Why apply green infrastructure strategies to a cemetery?