The New Stars of Landscape Architecture

The New Stars of Landscape Architecture

Novus International Headquarters receives 3 stars (image courtesy of ASLA)

Novus International Inc. Headquarters receives three stars. (Courtesy of ASLA)

Landscape projects now have the option to shoot for the stars. Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) has announced the first three projects to be certified by what is to-date the most comprehensive system for rating the sustainable design, construction, and maintenance of built landscapes. SITES is a collaborative effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the United States Botanic Garden designed to fulfill a critical need for sustainable guidelines in this environmentally sensitive field.

Created by some of the country’s leading sustainability experts and design professionals, the SITES system rates on 15 prerequisites and 51 additional, flexible credits. Stars are awarded based on percentages of total credits earned by redeveloping brownfields or grayfields, soil restoration, water conservation, use of recycled materials and native vegetation, and sustainable construction and land maintenance approaches.

Projects can obtain up to four stars through the newly established system. Acquiring the highest levels may test the determination of designers, as they are more elusive than one might think. Of the pilot program‘s first three certified projects, only one was worthy of multiple stars.

New playground at Shelby Farms (courtesy of JCFO)
New playground at Shelby Farms. (Courtesy JCFO)

The Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee, designed by James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), focused on bioretention and the use of recycled and reclaimed material from the site. Designed with children in mind, plant restoration and play equipment has been situated to encourage discovery and engagement. The project completed at least 40 percent of SITES guidelines and obtained one star.

Shade structures at the University of Texas Arlington. (Courtesy ASLA)

The Green at College Park at the University of Texas also focused on restoration. Primarily used as a gathering area, the design adapts off-site drainage issues to irrigate its drought tolerant planting palette. The Green also completed at least 40 percent of SITES requirements and obtained one star.

SITES Pilot Project at Novus International (Courtesy SWT Design)

The headquarters of Novus International preserves and enhances natural habitats, improves hydraulic conditions, and fosters a sense of community among employees at the corporate campus. The project team tapped the University of Missouri to monitor the natural conditions of the site including green roofs, wildlife identification and water quality. Of the 250 total points, the project received at least 60 percent of the credits necessary to obtain three stars.