Get started with the SITES v2 rating system

Published on
10 Mar 2016
Marni Evans

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) was created in response to an immediate need to shift our current development mindset to define and measure the performance of healthy ecological systems. By altering our current development path to be more compatible with these natural systems, we can increase the capability of future generations to meet their own needs.

SITES 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. SITES-certified landscapes help to reduce water demand, filter and reduce storm water runoff, provide wildlife habitat, sequester carbon, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health and increase outdoor recreation opportunities—all while providing significant social and economic benefits to the immediate site and surrounding region.

What is the process to achieve SITES certification?

The SITES v2 rating system is a 200-point system with four certification levels of achievement. The rating system includes 18 prerequisites and 48 credits for measuring site sustainability. The 18 prerequisites within the rating system are required, plus the minimum number of credits to achieve the desired certification level.

The process for SITES certification is similar to LEED. SITES certification involves registering the project with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), working through the SITES prerequisites and credits with the integrative design team, applying for SITES certification by submitting your completed certification application and paying the fee and receiving the certification decision after the formal review process is complete.

What resources do I need to implement SITES?

To get started with SITES, your project team may want to view all of the related resources: 

  • SITES v2 Rating System: The SITES v2 Rating System (available as a free, downloadable PDF) 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. To get started, download a free copy of the rating system.
  • SITES v2 Scorecard: The SITES v2 Scorecard (available as a free, downloadable XLS file) is a concise summary of a project's goals, listing all of the SITES prerequisites and credits and their respective points. This tool helps projects note their initial goals and their progress in terms of the required prerequisites, as well as the credits that the project team intends to pursue, and is submitted during certification review. Download a free copy.
  • SITES v2 Reference Guide: 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 the culmination of seven years of research and development with input from hundreds of practitioners, scientists and policymakers. It is geared toward those who work in landscape design, construction and maintenance. With extensive information including illustrated examples, resources and tips, the guide provides insight on setting measurable performance goals and applying best practices to any type of development project. USGBC and ASLA members receive discounted pricing for the SITES v2 Reference Guide. Sections I and II are particularly helpful for getting started. Purchase a hard copy or digital PDF.
  • The Guide to SITES Certification describes the certification process and also includes information on fees.
  • The SITES webinar series provides an overview of the SITES program and the benefits of sustainable landscapes.
  • SITES Worksheets and Calculators: Registered projects receive access to specific worksheets and calculators mentioned throughout the SITES v2 Rating System (e.g., Vegetation Worksheet, Native Plants Calculator). GBCI provides these tools to assist project teams in tracking and calculating data consistently throughout the design and development process.

Ready to register a project?

Registration and certification fees for SITES v2 certification are flat, not based on project size and discounted for USGBC and ASLA members. Please note that early adopter pricing is available for paid registration and registration/certification bundles through May 31, 2016. Before you dive in, make sure to also check that your project meets the eligibility requirements.

If you have worked on LEED projects, your USGBC login for LEED Online also works for SITES Online.

Questions? We’re here to help. Contact us by visiting the GBCI website or sending us an email.

Register your project today