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Kentucky's Sustainable Landscapes Can Seek Certification Under New Program

Creative Commons

Officials with the U.S. Green Building Council are hoping to certify several new sites in Kentucky in the coming months. But rather than bestow the organization’s well-known LEED rating system for green buildings, they’re recruiting spaces for a new, landscape-focused rating called Sustainable SITES.

When a building is seeking LEED certification, the USGBC assigns points for various sustainable design elements like having bicycle racks or green roofs.

But “SITES goes beyond LEED and looks at how to create sustainable, resilient, regenerative landscapes, places and spaces,” said Jamie Statter, USGBC’s vice president for strategic relationships. “While LEED looks at a green building, SITES looks at a green landscape.”

Statter was in Louisville last week to hold a workshop for professionals and property owners interested in learning how to incorporate SITES certification into projects.

Like LEED, the program uses a rubric to assign points, and the points translate to whether a project achieves certification, silver, gold or platinum ratings. Reducing the urban heat island effect can result in four points, for example. Protecting air quality during construction can award another four points. Other categories include managing water use and runoff, using sustainable materials and connecting to pedestrian and bicycle networks.

But unlike with LEED, SITES requires that planning begin pre-construction. So there’s no way to take a place that hasn’t been designed with the concept in mind and retroactively apply for certification.

Statter said just like with LEED, SITES provides a check when places use terms like “sustainability” to advertise.

“All the time, people hear these terms thrown around willy-nilly,” she said. “And without metrics and rigor, and in the case of GBCI and USGBC, third-party verification, we don’t know that things are performing as they should be performing or are designed as they should be designed.”

So far, there are no SITES-certified sites in Kentucky, but Statter said the goal is to have five to 10 register to begin the certification process in the coming months.

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