The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced it has adopted the SITES rating system for its capital construction program. Owned and managed by Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI), SITESis the most comprehensive program for sustainable land development and management and is used by landscape architects, engineers, architects, developers and policymakers to align land development with innovative sustainable design.
“Land is a crucial component of the built environment and can be planned, designed, developed and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits we derive from healthy functioning landscapes. The U.S. General Services Administration adopting SITES for its use is an important demonstration of environmental leadership,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president, GBCI, and COO, U.S. Green Building Council(USGBC). “GSA is a longstanding member of USGBC and active contributor to the development of USGBC’s LEED green building certification system, and they are an important partner in achieving our mission of a more sustainable built environment.”
SITES benefits the environment, property owners and local and regional communities and economies. SITES certification is for development projects located on sites with or without buildings—ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, streetscapes to homes and more.
GSA’s public buildings service is one of the largest and most diversified public real estate organizations in the world with a portfolio of 376.9 million rentable square feet in 8,721 active assets, and more than 144,000 acres of land, including ports of entry and historical properties. The GSA determined that incorporating SITES into the program offers a highly effective and efficient way to ensure environmental performance to meet federal goals on various capital project types.
“The SITES program offers GSA an effective and efficient way to compel site related performance on our various project types. Our incorporation of the SITES certification program provides an added focus on the quality of our site development, clear performance standards, and third party verification; all of which will help GSA meet its sustainability goals and ensure accountability in the actual performance of delivered projects,” said Christian Gabriel, RLA, ASLA, National Design Director-Landscape Architecture, GSA.
SITES is designed to define what a sustainable site is and, ultimately, elevate the value of landscapes in the built environment. The rating system provides a metrics based approach to important concepts like ecosystem services and green infrastructure so that developers and owners can make informed decisions about their land use.
The framework of SITES is based on the concept of ecosystem services, the benefits provided by the natural ecological processes working all around us that support our daily lives. Traditional land development and land use decisions often underestimate or ignore healthy ecosystems.
Sustainable landscapes create ecologically resilient communities, help reduce water demand and energy consumption, conserve or restore natural resources, ensure wildlife habitat and offset development impacts, improve air quality and promote human health and wellbeing by connecting people to nature, to their communities and to each other.
The GSA’s decision has been memorialized in the 2016 version of Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service (P-100), which establishes design standards and criteria for new buildings, infrastructural projects, major and minor alternations and work in historic structures for the Public Buildings Service (PBS) of the GSA. This document contains both policy and technical criteria used in the programming, design and documentation of GSA buildings and facilities.