Is your project eligible for SITES certification?

Published on
04 Mar 2016
Marni Evans

Your project team is interested in pursuing SITES v2—the most comprehensive program for sustainable landscape design—but how do you know if your project is eligible? With this handy list, you'll be able to determine if your project can achieve SITES certification. Here are a few things to keep in mind before your team registers a project in SITES Online.

Who is SITES for?

SITES certifies the ecological performance and human health benefits of landscape design, construction and operations within a site. A site is defined as the physical location or land on which a project is developed. Projects with or without buildings may apply, but buildings themselves are excluded from the requirements. SITES applies to both new construction and major renovations, and projects must be on a site that is being developed.

The rating system is written to address both previously developed sites and greenfield sites. In order to be eligible and apply for certification, your site must have been constructed or renovated within the last two years and be at least 2,000 square feet (185.8 square meters). There is no maximum size for a site. Almost any project that has a site development component could pursue certification, including:

  • Open spaces (e.g., local, state and national parks; botanical gardens; arboretums)
  • Streetscapes and plazas
  • Parking lots
  • Commercial (e.g., retail and office areas or corporate campuses)
  • Residential (neighborhoods or individual yards)
  • Educational/institutional (e.g., public and private campuses, museums, hospitals)
  • Infrastructure
  • Government
  • Military
  • Industrial
  • Cemeteries
  • Amusement parks
  • Golf courses

SITES can be applied anywhere in the world, although some references, standards and guidelines are specific to the United States. Project teams in other countries are responsible for referencing and documenting comparable local standards. We are happy to work with project teams on a one-on-one basis to help them adapt U.S. references where applicable.

If your project is already complete prior to registering, you should closely examine the prerequisites and credit requirements to ensure that the associated documentation exists to prove compliance for certification.

Consider before registration

SITES is unique: the strategies outlined in the rating system apply to the entire development process, from site selection and acquisition through operations and maintenance. This can create a challenge for some project teams if SITES requirements are not integrated until the end of the project or until construction is complete. The earlier you engage with the SITES rating system in the development process, the more beneficial it is.

Before registering your project, we suggest your project team review the requirements of all of the prerequisites to verify that certification can be achieved and to download a free copy of the SITES v2 Rating System and Scorecard. In particular, the following prerequisites require an integrated design team to initiate a collaborative planning process quite early in the overall project schedule:

  • Prerequisite 2.1: Use an integrative design process, which is intended to optimize site performance by identifying and executing synergistic opportunities across different disciplines throughout all phases of design and construction.
  • Prerequisite 2.2: Conduct a predesign site assessment, which is intended to maximize opportunities for beneficial site performance by conducting a detailed site assessment and exploring options for sustainable outcomes prior to design.
  • Prerequisite 2.3: Designate and communicate Vegetation and Soil Protection Zones, which are intended to maximize the benefits of ecosystem services by designating and communicating to project team members a site development plan that protects healthy vegetation, soils and sensitive environmental features.

It is imperative for project teams pursuing SITES integrate these prerequisites into the very earliest stages of the project timeline. The process and requirements are explained in detail in the SITES v2 Reference Guide, available for purchase on our website.

Ready to register?

If you have worked on LEED projects, your USGBC login for LEED Online also works for SITES Online. Registering your SITES project gives you access to the forms and worksheets needed to document compliance with SITES credits.

Register your project on SITES Online