The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council is a certification program for the design, construction and operation of commercial and residential “green” buildings. Although the LEED certification program includes a neighborhood design component, one area not specifically addressed by LEED is landscape design. In an effort to establish a standard for landscape design comparable to the LEED certification for buildings, the Sustainable Sites Initiative—a partnership 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 in conjunction with a diverse group of stakeholder organizations—recently published the first set of national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance.
The ratings system works on a 250-point scale, based on achieving 15 prerequisites and a certain percentage of credit points. Achievement of 40% of the possible points equals a one-star level and achievement of 80% of the points equals the maximum four-star level. Points can be achieved for using vegetation to minimize building cooling requirements, providing opportunities for outdoor physical activity, and rehabilitating lost streams, wetlands and shorelines.
Owners interested in minimizing their environmental impact and implementing sustainable design principles now have specific guidelines on how to do so with respect not only to their building, but the surrounding site as well.