Sustainable Sites is an initiative with a interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.
Jason King is a Senior Associate at Greenworks and an enthusiastic landscape architect who shares his passionate views at his sites Landscape+Urbanism and veg.itecture. He has just been appointed to the Sustainable Sites Technical Advisory Group for the US Green Building Council (USGBC) so we thought it would be a good opportunity to interview Jason about Sustainable Sites and his role at Sustainable Sites Technical Advisory Group.
WLA: What will your role be with the Sustainable Site Technical Advisory Group?
Jason: As part of the Sustainable Sites Technical Advisory Group, our regular activities will include working within the group to evaluate existing and future policies related to Sustainable Sites for all version of LEED, and specifically provide input on issues such as interpretation and Credit Interpretation Rulings (CIRs) on a bi-weekly basis. Specifically, I am going to be the primary credit guardian for the SSc5.1, Reduced Site Disturbance: Protect and Restore Open Space, and to work as a sub-guardian for a number of other credits. The entire group collectively makes determinations – this is just the first point of contact on specific items, sharing the load a bit.
My goals are really to move the LEED system and its interpretation of sustainable sites in a significantly more realistic and robust application. Determining what open space is and what it means to site users, or what components make up habitat are big questions – and can’t be oversimplified into mere square footage coverage. The challenge is to find ways to move the concepts forward to more specific and increasingly rigorous goals, but do so in a what that is accessible and integrated into the system. We need to constantly raise the bar, but not lose the momentum by making things overly onerous.
WLA: How important is LEED and Sustainable Sites to the future of landscape architecture?
Jason: I think it’s vitally important. Based on the success of LEED in the building-related industry, and how it’s really become a touchstone (for better or worse) for sustainability, our voices and roles in this process will be very important. One way is to be advocates for changes in LEED that reflect sustainability as we see it, beyond the simplification that often is the case in creation of green building systems. LEED isn’t going to go away, but rather evolve as we learn more and evolve from sustainable to regenerative design. The Sustainable Sites Initiative, developed by ASLA, is a good step in our future. It’s in the early stages, and not without issues that need to be resolved, but is much more of a true site-specific guideline that will really give us direction on defining sustainability in the landscape.
WLA: Most Landscape Architects are instinctly “green” and “sustainable”. How do you see the role of Sustainable Sites of built environment professionals?
Jason: It’s true that our education and experience makes landscape architects green or sustainable by nature. Many of the ideas we do as common practice are not considered specifically as ‘sustainable’ design to us, just what you do as a landscape architect. When compared to some other disciplines these ideas are much more innovative, or at least more contextual. Still, we have a great challenge in both quantifying these ideas into a system framework, and making sure we are vocal advocates for change, not allowing other disciplines to determine what role we play in design. The integration of landscape and buildings is fascinating – as landscape architecture, rather than just being ornament applied to the exterior, is becoming enmeshed in architectural form, building systems, and the environmental performance. The possibilities for integrated approaches are incredible.
As we get more prominence and a greater voice in project design processes, we will be able to more truly represent the profession and move forward an agenda that is both more sustainable, regionally adapted, and reflective of the common notion of what is a sustainable site.
We would like to congratulate Jason on his appointment and thank him for taking the time to answer a few questions.
By Damian Holmes – 12 August 2009