SITES rating system
SITES provides a comprehensive framework for designing, developing and managing sustainable and resilient landscapes and other outdoor spaces. SITES is the ideal tool to support nature positive design. This track record has earned SITES certification an important place in the rapidly evolving ESG reporting world as a standard of leading commitment.
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
Municipal zones; transportation hubs
Retail and office areas; corporate campuses
Neighborhoods or community areas
Educational or institutional
Public and private university campuses; museums; hospitals
How SITES works
SITES-certified projects help reduce water demand, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, enhance biodiversity, provide pollinator and wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, increase outdoor recreation opportunities and much more.
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. The SITES v2 Rating System is a 200-point system with four certification levels of achievement.
Synergies between SITES and LEED
The SITES and LEED rating systems are complementary and can be used independently or in tandem. LEED applies to your project building and the site it is located on, and SITES applies to everything on your site, except your building (with a few exceptions). If you would like your project to benefit from certifying to both SITES and LEED, you can take advantage of the synergies between them.
Explore SITES and LEED synergies
- 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 BD+C v4.
- The LEED to SITES Readiness Tool is a scorecard for teams interested in both LEED and SITES certifications on a project. The tool assesses a project’s readiness (and gaps) toward achieving SITES certification, based on any LEED credits achieved or anticipated. The tool provides a quick scorecard view of the available synergies between the two programs.
Eligibility and fees
SITES applies to a diverse set of project types, contexts and stages of development.
- Projects in the Planning Phase: SITES Precertification. is an optional review pathway focused on a project’s plan, including its intended design and construction strategies.
- New Construction and Major Renovation of Existing Sites: Using SITES for new construction projects lays a very important and critical foundation for a healthy, sustainable and resilient project. The decisions made at every stage impact overall performance in future conditions. 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.
- Existing, Built Landscapes: Projects can be evaluated by their sustainable site management and are encouraged to report their social, environmental, and economic benefits. This certification is currently in a pilot phase. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in participating or learning more.
There is no maximum size for a SITES project, but the minimum is set at 2,000 square feet (or 185.8 square meters). For projects over 100 acres, please contact email@example.com. Additional fees will apply.
||USGBC and ASLA Members
|Combined (Registration + Certification)
- Registration fee: 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 or higher level) based upon the status of either the owner or the project administrator for a given SITES project. 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, however is strongly recommended that a project register at the earliest stages to benefit from the SITES guidelines, gain access to the SITES v2 worksheets, work with GBCI more closely, and track progress accordingly.
- Precertification* fee: 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 to a full certification review pathway, the remaining fee is the certification fee only. The fee is discounted for ASLA members and USGBC members (at the Silver or higher level) based upon the status of either the owner or the project administrator for a given SITES project. Please note that precertification expires three years after achievement.
- Certification fee: 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 or higher level) based upon the status of either the owner or the project administrator for a given SITES project. 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
SITES certification reflects a project’s commitment to sustainability, improving health and wellness, and protecting and restoring nature. This guide covers the certification process, which involves four main steps. You also can download the free SITES Rating System for an overview of the SITES prerequisites and credits. For projects pursuing certification, the SITES Reference Guide is necessary to understand the details of the rating system and guide the submission process.
Register your project in SITES Online by providing basic information and submitting the registration fee payment to receive access to SITES worksheets and connect with a GBCI representative.
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 SITES 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. A GBCI representative will provide an online file sharing platform for your respective project. Once your project is ready for a review, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and inform them of which review path you plan to take (Standard or Split reviews).
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 email@example.com for more information.
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 and the rest at the end of construction.
Once you select your overall path, there are several general stages of review:
- Preliminary Review (20-25 business days for GBCI review: 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 can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a call with your reviewer prior to submitting for a final review.
- Final Review (20-25 business days for GBCI review): GBCI will review the resubmitted documentation (if any) for compliance. At this stage, you can also add new credits previously not attempted however they will only receive one round of review. 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 for GBCI review, additional fees ): Appeals are optional. . After a final review, you have the option of appealling a credit review and submitting additional documentation for credits that were not approved in a final review. There’s no cap on the number of appeals you can submit but note that fees are calculated per credit appeal.
Sign off on your project’s final review. If your 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 for your project, congratulations! You will receive a formal certificate of recognition, and you can begin to promote this achievement.
Download the GBCI Trademark & Policy Guidelines for proper SITES logo use.
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.