SITES—the Sustainable Sites Initiative—a joint effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the U.S. Botanic Garden—announced the first three projects to qualify for certification in its pilot program. More than 150 pilot projects began the SITES certification process in June 2010 to test the guidelines and provide feedback as to whether the 250-point rating system thoroughly captures all aspects of creating a sustainable landscape. Points are earned based on how well projects meet certain criteria in a combination of 15 required and 51 optional credit areas. Pilot projects can earn up to a four-star rating depending on what percentage of points (40, 50, 60, or 80) they earn in these credit areas, which include water conservation, redeveloping brown or gray fields, use of recycled materials and native vegetation, sustainable construction techniques, soil reconstruction, and land maintenance approaches. 

A regional park playground, a university greenway, and a corporate parking area and landscape are the three pilot projects to receive enough credits to earn the first certifications. Novus, the nine-acre corporate landscape project in St. Charles, Mo., received a three-star rating for its use of a permeable parking area, restored wildlife habitats, and a vegetable garden irrigated by a windmill-powered well filled via rainwater catchment. The 4.25-acre Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tenn., earned one star for use of recycled sneakers as a soft, spongy play surface, the restoration of a woodland area, and promotion of children’s health. The greenway and pedestrian promenade on the University of Texas Arlington campus also earned a one-star rating for replacing a parking lot with green space and featuring native plants in a rain garden.

SITES will continue to gather data from these certified projects and receive feedback from the other pilot projects through this summer. Industry experts in sustainable design and landscaping are all welcome to provide input as well. The feedback period ends in June 2012 and the official guide and certification system will be offered in wide release in 2013.