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

    “The Morton Arboretum successfully transformed a degraded detention pond and ill-equipped asphalt parking lot into a more integrated system that improved water quality, reduced flooding, and conserved water resources in addition to other benefits. The work was completed in 2005, making it one of the most forward-thinking projects in the Midwest at the time, utilizing permeable pavers and implementing extensive wetland plantings around a stormwater management feature for biofiltration, native habitat creation, and wetland restoration. The arboretum decided to further demonstrate its leadership by enrolling in the SITES pilot program in 2010, ultimately achieving certification. ”
  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

    “This project transformed 87 acres of former industrial land into an outdoor museum and heritage destination. Visitors of all abilities can experience WPFP by following foundry workers' footpaths and rail lines that connected foundry operations. The centerpiece of the preserve - located in a now-tranquil ravine - is a sculptural interpretation of the boring mill’s 36-ft water wheel in its original location. WPFP is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Preserve America site, serving as an exemplary example of the SITES credits that honor culture and history while promoting education.”
  8. Case Study Brief


    George "Doc" Cavalliere Park

    Scottsdale, Arizona

    “This park shows how sustainability can be achieved both effectively and artfully in a desert climate. This project, which achieved SITES certification during the pilot program, took great strides to integrate a regional retention facility into a community park. It accomplished this by conserving and restoring native vegetation, managing stormwater runoff, using solar energy, and providing multiple opportunities for physical activity and social interaction, among other sustainable strategies. ”
  9. Case Study Brief

    Brent Elementary-After

    Brent Elementary Schoolyard Greening: Phase 1

    Washington, District of Columbia

    “This project represents the only elementary school to have achieved certification in the SITES Pilot Program. As a community- and school-led initiative, this project was able to redefine the school’s identity. By replacing lawn and asphalt with outdoor classrooms, rain gardens, butterfly gardens and permeable pavement, this schoolyard was able to provide numerous environmental benefits as well as meet its goals of lowering maintenance costs and extending learning opportunities outside of the building.”


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