SITES Rating System
SITES is a sustainability-focused framework that ushers landscape architects, engineers and others toward practices that protect ecosystems and enhance the mosaic of benefits they continuously provide our communities such as climate regulation, carbon storage and flood mitigation. SITES is the culmination of years of research and development by leading professionals in the fields of soil, water, vegetation, materials and human health.
By providing performance measures rather than prescribing practices, SITES supports the unique conditions of each site, encouraging project teams to be flexible and creative as they develop beautiful, functional and regenerative landscapes.
SITES-certified landscapes help reduce water demand, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health and increase outdoor recreation opportunities.
SITES certification is based on a point system: the number of points that a project earns determines the certification level it receives. The SITES certification process allows projects to benchmark against performance criteria. The process is performed through SITES Online, which is simplified tool to allow designed to collect documentation and track projects from start to finish.
|SITES Certified™||70-84 points earned|
|SITES Silver®||85-99 points earned|
|SITES Gold®||100-134 points earned|
|SITES Platinum®||135+ points earned|
Eligibility and Fees
New and existing sites can apply for a SITES certification. There is no maximum size for a SITES project, but the minimum is set at 2,000 square feet. A project’s site also must have been constructed within the last two years. Projects located on sites with or without buildings can apply, including:
Local, state and national parks; botanic gardens; arboretums
Streetscapes and plazas
Retail and office areas; corporate campuses
Neighborhoods or individual yards
Public and private campuses; museums; hospitals
|USGBC and ASLA Members||Non-Members|
|Combined (Registration + Certification)||$8,000||$9,500|
The registration fee is calculated on a per-project basis and must be paid at the time of registration. The fee is discounted for ASLA members and USGBC members at the Silver level and above.
The certification fee is charged on a per-project basis. It’s due before submitting a project’s application for a certification review. A discount is offered if certification and registration fees are paid together at the time of a project’s registration.
Considering pursuing a SITES certification? Below is a rundown on the process, which involves four main steps. You also can download our free SITES Rating System for more information about prerequisites and credits for SITES certification.
Register your project by completing key forms and submitting payment.
SITES Online is a web portal that you’ll use to complete registration information related to your project; submit payments; sign the GBCI certification agreement; and access a variety of tools and resources.
At this stage, you’ll also assemble your project team, which includes three main roles – owner, agent and project administrator.
The owner is the person or entity that has ultimate control over the SITES certification application. The agent is the person or entity that has been granted authority by the owner to register the project and accept the certification agreement. The project administrator acts as a project manager, overseeing the SITES project as well as which team members are responsible for certain tasks, credits and prerequisites.
Collect and submit the necessary documentation to enable a GBCI review of your project.
Working with your project team, you should identify which SITES credits to pursue and assign them to members. Your team then should collect information, perform calculations and analysis, and prepare documentation demonstrating your achievement of the prerequisites and your selected credits.
After this is done, you should submit the necessary documentation to enable a review of your project. Before you complete your application, consider contacting your reviewer to discuss any compliance issues your project may have.
GBCI conducts a thorough examination of your project.
GBCI offers three overall review paths for SITES projects: standard, split and expedited.
The standard review path is where you’ll submit your entire application. The split review — designed to let you know if your project is on the right path — allows you to submit part of your application at the end of your project’s design phase and the rest at the end of construction. Finally, under the expedited review, you can request the review time to be cut in half, but there’s an additional charge for this service.
Once you select your overall path, there are several general stages of review:
Here, GBCI will determine if your project complies with prerequisites and attempted credits. You can accept the results from GBCI, submit new or revised documentation or try for additional credits before submitting for a final review.
Final Review (optional)
In the final review path, you can submit supplementary information or amend your application. Just like in the preliminary review stage, you can either accept the results from GBCI, or resubmit your application as an appeal.
Appeal Review (optional, fees apply)
At this stage, you can submit additional information, modify your application, or add new credits previously not attempted but fees will apply. You can accept the results from GBCI as final, or submit a further appeal. There’s no cap on the number of appeals you can submit.
Signing off on your project’s final review.
Accepting GBCI’s final review is the last step in the SITES certification process. If your project was awarded certification, and you have approved the final certification report, then your project will be designated “closed out,” meaning you can no longer appeal the certification level or review decisions for specific credits or prerequisites.
Revocation of SITES certification
In rare situations, a SITES certification may be revoked. We’ve created the Certification Challenge Policy to ensure that all SITES project proposals and subsequent reviews by GBCI team members are done so with integrity, accuracy and truthfulness. A certification challenge may be initiated by GBCI or by any third party within 18 months of a project’s certification. We recommend that you retain all project documentation related to your certification for two years in case of a challenge.