'LEED for Landscapes' Aims to Green the Nation's Greens

'LEED for Landscapes' Aims to Green the Nation's Greens

The United States' first voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes launched last week, a development its creators hope will do for the landscaping sector what LEED did for the building industry.

The American Society of Landscape Architects, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the U.S. Botanic Garden partnered to develop the rating system as part of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, which they plan to test through a series of pilot projects over the next two years.

"Landscapes can give back," Holly H. Shimizu, executive director of the United States Botanic Garden, said in a statement. "We believe that as these guidelines become widely used, not only will they be as transformative to the landscape industry as LEED was to buildings, but more than that, they will allow built landscapes to be regenerative like natural landscapes, and assist in mitigating some of the most pressing environmental issues we face today. We need to acknowledge our landscapes' value, treasure them and cultivate them sustainably and responsibly. The need is urgent, the time is now and these guidelines, when used correctly, are the tools."

The organizations issued a call for pilot projects Thursday for landscapes greater than 2,000 square feet. Any type of designed landscape is eligible; the deadline for applications is Feb. 15, 2010.

The rating system can be applied to landscapes with or without buildings. A rating of one to four stars is assigned to projects that score 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of the 250 available points. The points are awarded in areas including materials, soils and vegetation, the use of greenfields, brownfields and grayfields, and construction and maintenance.

The rating system can be found in "The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009." (pdf) A companion piece, "The Case for Sustainable Landscapes," (pdf) offers the reasoning behind the initiative and rating system, in addition to case studies.

Image courtesy of American Society of Landscape Architects.