November 27, 2011 Edit
"Instead of a lofty discussion on the merits of different prerequisites and credits, Jose Alminana, FASLA, Andropogon, Angela Dye, FASLA, A. DYE Design, Hunter Beckham, ASLA, SWT Design, and Sarah Weidner Astheimer, ASLA, james corner field operations, launched into the practical challenges and rewards involved in applying the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) to new and existing projects and steering the first pilot projects through the submittal and certification process. In fact, Beckham and Astheimer are now neck and neck, having moved past the first submittal process and now heading towards the final submittal and certification, meaning one will be the first SITES-certified project.
Alminana said that 157 pilot projects in 34 U.S. States, Iceland, Canada, and Spain are registered and moving through the submittal and certification process, with 9 projects already in the preliminary submittal process. Projects clearing the preliminary review move to final review and then are set at one of the four levels: 1-4 stars. He said landscape architects testing out SITES view the initiative as valuable because it “adds clarity and vigor to technical content.”
Now, the SITES team is also reviewing feedback from the pilot projects to determine the “accuracy and fairness of the credits weights, their applicability to diverse project types, and how challenging or rewarding certification levels are.”
A wide variety of projects are moving forward. Some 65 percent of projects are greyfield redevelopments, while another 15 percent are brownfields. There are lots of sizes, from less than one acre to up to 500 acres. Alminana said the guidelines will be available as a stand-alone rating system, or can simply be used as voluntary guidelines. SITES is being incorporated into LEED through updated credits, and the U.S. Green Building Council and SITES founding partners are also working out how SITES certified projects will be treated in the LEED systems. Pilot testing will continue through 2013. When that process ends, the reference guide will be revised and presented. “This is freeware for all.” (see earlier post on the progress of SITES).
A Few Projects Testing out SITES
The Novus International headquarters, a 9.5-acre site outside St. Louis, is part of a University of Missouri research park, and has already made its way through the preliminary submittal process. Beckham, the landscape architect on the project, said “they want everything in SITES in their project so I got lucky.” The building, which is LEED Platinum, is now surrounded by active design elements, including a running loop, biomimetic dedsign features, and vegetable gardens. More importantly, Beckham mapped out the nine different habitats in the region and developed a plan and set of design proposals to incorporate those into the site. To accomplish SITES pre-requisite 2.1, the pre-design assessment, Beckham basically incorporated all these ideas into his client pitch, introducing all the concepts from the get-go. To match the LEED platinum building, Beckham is aiming for SITES 4-stars.
Shelby Farms Park, a massive 4,000-acre park less than 6 kilometers from Memphis, is one of the major projects of james corner field operations, and has already gone through the preliminary submittal process. Astheimer said the master plan’s goal is to create a “major public space and destination, along with a model of sustainable design.” One of the first projects, the 4.5-acre Woodland Discovery Center, is already done. Astheimer said Corner’s firm used this project because we “wanted to test ourselves” against the benchmarks and guidelines. The site include mature oaks surrounded by invasive Chinese species. An adjacent forest provides a frame for a series of “play rooms or nests.” There’s a “rich set of play experiences tailored to different children’s needs.”
Shoemaker Green, a yard and plaza on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia, provides 3.85 acres of new open space, passive recreation as well as six tennis courts. It’s surrounded by buildings and has an innovative on-site water reuse program with zero runoff. There are “very intensive uses on the site” — some 57,000 participate in annual relays every spring. For Alminana at Andropogon, another key goal is zero-waste. “Every cubic inch of material on site was reused.”
The Tempe Transportation Center in Tempe, Arizona, was a 2-acre employee parking lot. Constructed between 2006 and 2008, the project is close to downtown, and across from Arizona State University dorms. Suited to SITES, it displaced parking, includes a vegetated green roof (one of the first in the desert), shaded areas for “respite,” a 3-story mixed-use building, and bike station with valet, repair, and lockers. The site is also of great historic significance to the local native American community: the city found that the location of the transportation center was a burial ground sacred to the Hohokam. Archeological investigations were blessed by tribal elders. Remains found by the city were removed and are being inventoried, with the goal of eventually returning them to the tribe.