Sustainable SITES

Curated by Danielle Pieranunzi

Since 2006, Danielle Pieranunzi has served in multiple roles in the development and management of the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES®), a program that created a LEED-like voluntary rating system that defines the criteria for sustainable land development, measures site performance, and ultimately elevates the value of landscapes. SITES was developed through a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the United States Botanic Garden. The SITES v2 Rating System draws on the experience gained from a multi-year pilot program and input from numerous technical advisors and stakeholders. Since 2015, the SITES program has been owned and administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), where Danielle works as SITES Program Manager. Here, she highlights some SITES certified projects that lead the way in demonstrating sustainability and resilience in action. For more information on SITES certified projects, please visit here

  1. Case Study Brief


    Phipps Conservatory Center for Sustainable Landscapes

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    “This project represents leadership in site sustainability, including becoming the first project in the world to achieve SITES v2 Platinum certification. The 2.9-acre site, a former brownfield with no existing natural landcover, has been transformed to manage 99% of rainfall events using green infrastructure and features 1.5 acres of new green space with over 100 native plant species. Central to the CSL landscape is a 4,000-sf lagoon that is populated with native fish and turtles. A visitor to the CSL can learn about the beauty and benefits of native plant communities, green infrastructure and its role in improving local water quality, and also see the wildlife that the site is designed to preserve and protect.”
  2. Case Study Brief

    Blue Hole-After

    Blue Hole Regional Park

    Wimberley, Texas

    “Blue Hole, a popular spring-fed swimming hole and 126-acre recreational area, was nearly “loved to death” after years of heavy human use and overgrazing by livestock degraded the site and ecosystem. Today, Blue Hole is a successful project that strikes a balance between preserving the site’s ecological integrity with recreational and educational opportunities for the community. In fact, it has survived catastrophic floods while becoming economically self-sufficient due to an increase in visitation, even with new capacity limits. SITES certification was awarded for its use of green infrastructure, native vegetation, local and salvaged materials, stream bank restoration, and so much more.”
  3. Case Study Brief

    Canal Park-After

    Canal Park

    Washington, District of Columbia

    “This is not your typical urban park. This three-block linear park, which serves as an economic and social catalyst for this industrial area of Washington DC, features an innovative neighborhood-scale stormwater management system. With the linear rain garden, LID tree pits, and underground water storage capacity, almost all of the stormwater runoff will be captured, treated, and reused to satisfy up to 95% of the park’s water needs for fountains, irrigation, toilet flushing, and an ice rink. To better understand its impact, a year-long post-occupancy study was conducted per the SITES monitoring credit, which revealed the tremendous positive impact the project has had on the community in addition to conserving resources and reducing waste. ”
  4. Case Study Brief


    Pete V. Domenici U.S. Courthouse Landscape Retrofit

    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    “This project illustrates how SITES was carefully developed to apply to a wide range of climates while still addressing key sustainability issues – in this case, water conservation. Designing with the local climate, the project team converted a water-intensive turf landscape to native and drought-tolerant plants, which resulted in an 86% reduction in the site’s water use. Additionally, a mix of treatment structures, rain gardens, and swales collect and filter over 95% of stormwater runoff before exiting the site. Use of repurposed materials and solar energy also contributed to the place-based design and the site’s function.”
  5. Case Study Brief


    The Morton Arboretum: Meadow Lake and Permeable Main Parking Lot

    Lisle, Illinois

    “Besides preserving and enhancing adjacent Meadow Lake, this flagship permeable pavement project transformed designer perceptions. Prior to construction, the prevailing view of landscape architects, civil engineers and municipalities was that frozen permeable pavement would heave and break its surface in the winter. The Morton entry and 500-car parking lot remained unmoved for three winters, dispelling fears of heaving winter and early spring damage. By 2010, the City of Chicago, several Chicagoland municipalities and institutions successfully built millions of square feet of permeable pavement projects in parking lots, green alleys and streets.”
  6. Case Study Brief

    CBDG After

    Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden

    Durham, North Carolina

    “This almost one-acre garden is excellent at providing people of all ages with the opportunity for hands-on horticulture and gardening. At its core, the garden focuses on organic and sustainable approaches to gardening, illustrating techniques that can be used by the average homeowner and gardener. The goal of providing health and nutrition education is exemplified through on-site demonstrations with at-grade vegetable beds, an herb garden, a native food forest, and bee hives. The project achieved SITES certification during the pilot program and informed the development of the SITES v2 credit promoting food production. ”
  7. Case Study Brief


    West Point Foundry Preserve, Phase 1

    Cold Spring, New York

    “The forethought that landscape architects can provide is critical for phased projects. The creation of a preserve to allow public access and enjoyment of this former Civil War foundry and tidal marsh included the renovation of a historic brick structure. While the renovation of the building was slated for a later phase due to budget limitations, the landscape architect recognized that the bridge used to access it would need to be renovated as well. They recommended that the bridge be renovated in Phase 1 to create access to the building and minimize further disturbance to completed areas in future phases. This approach was effective in that it provided access and reduced potential costs for future phases while providing a scenic overlook of the brook for visitors. ”
  8. Case Study Brief


    George "Doc" Cavalliere Park

    Scottsdale, Arizona

    “By incorporating a large steel shade structure, this design keeps playground surface temperatures to 82°F or less -- even at noon in the summer, providing a rare, comfortable outdoor play space for summer use.”
  9. Case Study Brief

    Brent Elementary-After

    Brent Elementary Schoolyard Greening: Phase 1

    Washington, District of Columbia

    “Since a green schoolyard was implemented at this Washington DC elementary school, it has seen significant increases in student test scores, attendance, enrollment, and more. Community participation was a key component of the renovation process. Parents, teachers, and students all worked with the landscape architect on the master plan.”


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