In 2005, a consortium of concerned groups composed benchmark standards for Sustainable Site development. This initiative was designed to provide developers, designers, owners, builders and government agencies criteria by which existing and new sites could be modified to sustainable standards.
Consortium participants included representatives from 11 private and public organizations. The steering committee was comprised of 30 experts from construction, development and architectural fields as well as government officials. The result was the creation of the Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks and a Reference Guide for the landscape industry.
Between 2007 and 2009, these standards have been utilized for practical applications. Feedback from these applications has resulted in expansion and refinements to the fundamental sustainable site guidelines.
Prominent organizations represented in the development of the original standards are the American Society of Landscape Architects, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden, the U.S. Green Building Council, the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenScapes Program, the National Recreation and Park Association and the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Environment and Water Resources Institute.
The consortium’s goal was to establish viable standards by which developers could reduce the impact of buildings on the environment through the implementation of sustainable landscape and site planning. The sustainable site benchmark system incorporated green site design concepts, green maintenance concepts and environmental research in establishing tangible values for responsible development.
The Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks are founded upon the principle that a sustainable site is the result of a merger between economic, environmental and social considerations. This merger serves to benefit all three components.
Since the 2005 initiative, local planning boards and government agencies have embraced sustainable site and overall development concepts. While the Obama Administration has charged the Office of General Services with oversight capabilities, state and local governments have begun implementing ways to reduce energy consumption and increase the use of green concepts in local communities.
The clustering of homes to prevent urban sprawl and preserve open spaces, the selection of commercial sites with easy public transport access and overall low-density land use for both residential and commercial projects have become been included in local policy modifications. Many planning boards now offer incentives and rewards to developers who aggressively preserve open areas by including forever-green park areas in their site plans.
Brownfields are defined as abandoned or underutilized properties whose redevelopment may be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. The evolution of The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act reflects the furtherance of the sustainable site initiative. The EPAS estimates there are minimally 500,000 Brownfields in the U.S.
By carefully recycling our site locations, the country can begin to correct the wasteful practices of the past and move toward a sustainable future.