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Urban forestry professor instrumental in establishment of new national rating program for sustainable landscapes

June 11, 2015 – Susan Day, associate professor of urban forestry in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, initiated national discussions in 2007 that culminated this week with the rollout by Green Business Certification Inc. of its new Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) rating system, a comprehensive program and toolkit for developing sustainable landscapes.

Day, who holds a joint appointment in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Horticulture, not only helped create the SITES rating system but also served on the Soils Technical Committee that provided the standards for urban soil management.

“Soil standards are a critical component of the rating system,” Day explained. “We carefully deliberated what constitutes sustainable management and design. After working on this project for nearly 10 years, it is rewarding to see it all come together. Our nation’s urban landscapes can only benefit as these guidelines are adopted.”

SITES was developed through a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden. The rating system can be applied to development projects located on sites with or without buildings — ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, streetscapes and homes, and much more.

“Landscapes knit together the fabric of our communities,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). “And sustainable landscapes are critical in their ability to reduce water demand, filter and reduce storm water runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and increase outdoor recreation opportunities. SITES is an important addition to our toolkit, and GBCI appreciates this opportunity to support this additional contribution to healthy, thriving communities and neighborhoods.”

“It is exciting to see years of work developing and field testing SITES culminate with the availability of this rating system,” said Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin. “The depth and breadth of approaches that were implemented by pilot projects demonstrates how valuable SITES can become for revolutionizing our relationships with built landscapes.”

“SITES is a powerful tool for enhancing built landscapes precisely because it puts ecosystem services, the benefits humans derive from functional ecosystems, front and center,” said Ari Novy, executive director of the United States Botanic Garden. “This approach will help maximize our collective ability to create sustainable and healthy communities. Making SITES available through GBCI will be a great boon for the quality and resilience of our built landscapes.”  (continue reading........)

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