The Sustainable SITES Initiative aims to weave the conservation of healthy natural ecosystems and the restoration of landscapes found in the spaces and places we inhabit in our daily lives. By providing a systematic, comprehensive set of guidelines that model development practices after healthy systems and processes, SITES supports a nature-positive future.
- Why does sustainability matter for landscapes?
- What are the benefits of SITES?
- What’s the process to achieve SITES certification?
- Who certifies SITES projects?
- What are the eligibility requirements to apply for a SITES certification?
- How do I get started with SITES?
- What fees are involved if I want to register my project for SITES certification?
- My project has been certified. How can I promote or market the certification?
- What resources are available to help educate my client about SITES?
- How do I stay up-to-date with SITES?
- What type of support is provided by GBCI for SITES project teams?
- Can my international project apply for SITES?
- Is there an option in SITES to certify plans and intended strategies?
- What is SITES Precertification*, and how does it work?
- How can I book a SITES expert to speak at my next event or conference?
Why does sustainability matter for landscapes?
Population growth and development are causing our communities to use more resources than ever before, which means more waste and a negative impact on the environment. Traditional land development and land-use decisions often underestimate or ignore healthy ecosystems. Sustainable land development is cost-effective, better for the land, and fosters resiliency.
Through thoughtful design and management, landscapes can be developed to help sustain the natural world we live in by incorporating native vegetation, healthy soils and existing ecosystems. Our communities depend on the functions of ecosystems, which have nutrient-rich soil and provide us with clean air and water.
What are the benefits of SITES?
For environmental designers, their clients, and the general public, SITES offers several significant benefits and values:
- SITES advances best practices in landscape architecture and other environmental design professions,
- SITES may help design professionals fulfill their health, safety, and welfare responsibilities for licensure,
- clients can be assured that their project has achieved rigorous, field-tested standards for sustainability,
- clients can market the SITES certification of their projects (as many do for the LEED® green building program), and
- SITES is ethically responsible, protects natural systems for present-day use and appreciation, and preserves ecosystems and their essential services for future generations.
What’s the process to achieve SITES certification?
The SITES Rating System is a 200-point system with four certification levels of achievement (projects must meet a minimum of 70 points to achieve certification). The 18 prerequisites within the rating system are required, plus the minimum number of credits to achieve the required certification level.
A SITES certification involves registering the project with the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI); working through the SITES prerequisites and credits through a process with an integrated design team; applying for SITES certification by submitting a completed certification application and paying the fee; and receiving the certification decision after the formal review process is complete.
Visit the Guide to SITES certification for more information.
Who certifies SITES projects?
Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) administers a SITES certification. GBCI is the only certification and credentialing body within the green business and sustainability industry to exclusively administer project certifications and professional credentials and certificates of LEED, PEER, WELL, and SITES.
What are the eligibility requirements to apply for a SITES certification?
The SITES Rating System can apply to development projects located on sites with or without buildings. Your site must have been constructed within the last two years and be at least 2,000 square feet in order to be eligible to apply for a SITES certification. Eligible sites include:
- Open spaces: local, state and national parks; botanic gardens; arboretums
- Streetscapes and plazas
- Parking lots
- Commercial: retail and office areas; corporate campuses
- Residential: neighborhoods or individual yards
- Educational/Institutional: public and private campuses; museums; hospitals
- Industrial parks
- Golf courses
How do I get started with SITES?
To get started with SITES, view the following resources:
- The SITES Rating System is available for download; this free download includes the SITES v2 rating system, a complete set of prerequisites and credits used to measure site sustainability, and a corresponding scorecard.
- The Guide to SITES certification describes the certification process and also includes information on fees.
- The SITES v2 Reference Guide contains the v2 Rating System plus additional information for projects pursuing certification, including what submittal documentation is needed to meet the requirements, guidance on how to do calculations and prepare documentation, resources and additional definitions.
- The SITES webinar series provides an overview of the SITES program and the benefits of sustainable landscapes.
What fees are involved if I want to register my project for SITES certification?
Registration and certification fees are based on project size. View the fee table.
My project has been certified. How can I promote or market the certification?
Review our PR Guidelines for ways to promote your project's recent certification.
What resources are available to help educate my client about SITES?
In addition to the SITES v2 Rating System and Reference Guide, please download a copy of our complimentary slide presentation called the SITES Client Deck that outlines the business case for SITES.
How do I stay up-to-date with SITES?
We'd love to have you join our mailing list to receive the most up-to-date information about SITES. Visit sustainablesites.org and enter your name and email address at the bottom of the page to subscribe to email.
What type of support is provided by GBCI for SITES project teams?
GBCI provides support to project teams pursuing SITES certification throughout the process—from pre-design through post-certification—through a variety of tools and project-specific one-on-one support. Our team will work with project teams to help identify local resources, answer eligibility and prerequisite requirements and field technical questions. At each stage of review, project teams have the opportunity to speak directly with their reviewer. Post certification, GBCI provides a SITES Certificate along with review comments, a press release and media kit to help celebrate the successes of a project team. SITES Certified projects are then listed on our website and showcased through our PR team. Support includes:
- Provide the SITES v2 Rating System, Scorecard, and in-depth SITES v2 Reference Guide full of resources
- Offer case studies on our website
- Answer questions via email at any time (via email@example.com)
- After registration, we offer access to worksheets and calculators, SITES Online portal and provide one-on-one, project-specific support
- Assist teams outside of the US to create equivalent requirements
- Assist project teams pursuing both SITES and LEED
- Offer optional pre-review calls with GBCI reviewers (email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule)
- Provide SITES review results
- Post certification, we provide a Certificate, press kit, press release and feature the project prominently on our website.
Can my international project apply for SITES?
Yes, SITES may be applied worldwide and we'd love to have projects from outside of the United States participate in SITES certification. Our team is more than happy to work with project teams on a one-on-one basis to adapt US references, standards and guidelines to localized resources, where applicable.
Is there an option in SITES to certify plans and intended strategies?
A project team can choose to have GBCI review their project’s plans and intended design and construction strategies to see how it aligns with SITES criteria rather than, or prior to a full certification review. This review pathway is called Precertification and it is available to all SITES registered projects for a fee.
We offer precertification to help you determine which credits and prerequisites your project is likely to achieve during the full review, to demonstrate your commitment to site sustainability and resilience. It can also help market the unique and valuable features of your project to attract community support, funders and even influence permitting in some localities. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
What is SITES Precertification*, and how does it work?
Precertification* is an optional review pathway available for all SITES registered projects. We offer precertification to help you determine which credits and prerequisites your project is likely to achieve during the full review, to demonstrate your commitment to site sustainability and resilience. It can also help market the unique and valuable features of your project to attract community support, funders and even influence permitting in some localities.
The project will receive a SITES Precertification Worksheet to guide the process. The Precertification Worksheet allows you to decide your compliance path for each required prerequisite and each credit that you will be pursuing. In the worksheet, you’ll also describe your strategy for meeting the requirements of that credit and the pathway that you’ve chosen. You will also complete your preliminary scorecard to demonstrate which and how many points you will be pursuing. Once the compliance pathway and strategy for all prerequisites and pursued credits (must be enough to achieve certification) has been approved by GBCI, the project will achieve SITES Precertification.
A Precertified project can also choose to continue to full certification to demonstrate their leadership in site sustainability and resilience for their built project, and to join the growing number of SITES certified projects around the world. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please note that precertification expires three years after achievement.
How can I book a SITES expert to speak at my next event or conference?
To have a member of the SITES team speak at your next conference or event, please fill out the Speaker Request Form.