A Collective Impact
If those guidelines sound a bit like LEED credits, there is indeed some overlap. SITES director Danielle Pieranunzi says the committee plans to align with LEED where it makes sense. Likewise, the USGBC hopes to incorporate some of the SITES credits into its rating system, to offer transfer points if you’re going after both.
Klope says that while SITES needs some tweaking to make it more user-friendly for small lots, “we’re taking what we learned and applying it to projects where people want to be green but not over the top. If builders can implement 75 percent of what we’ve accomplished, they’d achieve significant gains in landscape-regenerative building” at little or no extra cost.
SITES is a feature builders can embed in their practice or market as a niche, Pieranunzi says. Many of the benefits—lowering maintenance and utility costs, enhancing wildlife habitat—pass directly to homeowners. The pilot projects are asked to track costs, and Pieranunzi says certification will be less expensive than LEED.
There’s also a monitoring credit. Builders could come back yearly to make sure things are working and take what they’ve learned to the next project, Pieranunzi says. “It’s one of our highest credits because it takes a long time, but a builder could create a side service to do that. Long-term sustainability is our goal.”
The SITES feedback period ends in June, and the program will roll out in 2013. (To download the guidelines, go to www.sustainablesites.org.) “The biggest thing you’re doing is educating people that they should be thinking in restorative terms,” Martuscello says. “The onus lies on a handful of good builders. Millions of people building one home at a time can make a big impact.”