The Sustainable Sites Initiative

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The Sustainable Sites Initiative

The Sustainable Site Initiative is an interdisciplinary partnership working to foster a transformation in land development and management practices.

Website: http://www.sustainablesites.org
Members: 274
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SITES interest survey

Started by Jonathan Garner Aug 27, 2013. 0 Replies

Gray Water

Started by Daniel Kovach. Last reply by Daniel Kovach Sep 18, 2012. 2 Replies

Decommissioning Golf Course

Started by Daniel Kovach. Last reply by Boilerplater Mar 13, 2012. 1 Reply

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Comment by Heather L. Venhaus on October 31, 2013 at 7:53pm

Matt - From what I understand, the U.S. Botanic Garden does not support the lawsuit.  I believe this to be true because out of the three organizations, the U.S. Botanic Garden has the greatest legal resources and influence.   If the USBG was unhappy with the trademark request as filed by UT, they would have joined the legal battle to stop it and we definitely would have heard from their lawyers by now.

 The tremendous support the USBG has given to SITES is often overlooked.  Their support (via contracts signed with the Wildflower Center) has paid for the vast majority of the SITES committee work and the development of the guidelines and performance benchmarks.  For me, it speaks volumes that they have not joined the lawsuit.

I believe resolution is possible, but it may need to occur in a way that allows the parties involved to save face and ensures a more healthy working relationship in the future.  

This lawsuit is not good for SITES or the sustainability movement as a whole.  The sooner it goes away, the sooner professionals in the landscape design industry become partners and influential members of the green building community.  We should all reach out to our leaders and push for resolution.

Comment by Matt Fridell on October 24, 2013 at 9:06am

Thanks for your insights.   Having worked on a Pilot Project for some time I have a great deal of respect for SITES and the comprehensive approach it brings.   I can't believe that there is some kind of a power struggle going on over what is essentially the bookkeeping.  However, stepping back I don't think that any one of the partners should have a controlling interest in any individual aspect of what it is.  I keep wanting to say that not having the organization of this ironed out from the start is a fatal flaw, but I don't want to believe it.   

What's the next step that would move it towards a real resolution?

Comment by Heather L. Venhaus on October 24, 2013 at 8:57am

Matt - Currently, SITES is not a separate entity.  The Executive Committee is made up of the ASLA, the Wildflower Center which is a part of UT and the US Botanic Garden.  SITES staff who work with the various committees and lead the development of the metric and educational materials are located in Austin at the Wildflower Center.  Liz Guthrie, Manager of Professional Practice Programs is the ASLA staff liaison.  The US Botanic Garden is the major funder.  I am not certain, but the formal partnership may be a legal issue/phrase.  The group operated under an MOU at one time but I believe it is now expired.  

Many Landscape Architects have contributed to SITES and have been instrumental in its success.  But, if you look at the make up of the various committees you will see there are many other professions involved - ecologist, soil scientist, civil engineers, academics, foresters, horticulturist, social scientist etc...  These groups are also important stakeholders and their expertise is absolutely necessary to building a whole systems approach.

I am sure there are many lessons to be learned here but in my opinion, this lawsuit is not constructive and can potentially have long-term damaging effects on SITES and the landscape sustainability movement as a whole.

Comment by Matt Fridell on October 23, 2013 at 3:26pm

Since the petition from ASLA and press release from UT are contradictory, please help me understand what's going on with the following questions:

  • UT States: "UT has never had a formal partnership or any legal agreement with ASLA, despite our efforts over the past two years to develop one."    ASLA states : " The SITES trademarks were developed through a partnership between ASLA, the U.S. Botanic Garden and UT."   Does this mean that there was never even a formal memo of understanding between these agencies the entire time they developed and worked on SITES?
  • What is the legal designation of SITES, or SSI?  Is it its own nonprofit or what?
  • If it is its own entity why would UT act instead of SSI?
  • If it is not its own entity, WTF ASLA?  Why would you have participated in this without getting the foundation set up properly?  
  • Why did development on SSI continue past page one if they didn't have the partnership resolved?   Don't they know that these things always unravel at the end?
  • If SITES is an independent organization, what the heck is UT doing?  They are way out of line obtaining TMs on their behalf!  
  • Litigation is good if it teaches ASLA to get their act together before jumping into something, even something as cool as SITES!   

SITES is a great program, don't get me wrong.    But this isn't nonsense - this is basic business organization!  Help me understand?

 

Comment by Heather L. Venhaus on October 23, 2013 at 2:43pm

In regards to the ASLA SITES Petition update,  publicly airing dirty laundry is rarely a good idea.  Particularly when it is smattered with childish comments and obviously intended to discredit a former partner.  Landscape Architects and many others in the site design industry have worked tirelessly to prove our value to the green building industry/movement.  This whole mess makes us all look foolish and certainly not capable of being productive team members working towards a more sustainable future.  So much energy and money is going towards this mess.  I wonder, what would happen if we put that towards our mutual goal of getting SITES fully launched?

Comment by Heather L. Venhaus on October 17, 2013 at 7:53pm

The legal petition from ASLA and the formal response from UT definitely tell two different sides of the story.  Regardless of which side you fall, we should all agree that litigation is not good for SITES or the profession as a whole.  SITES v2 and the reference guide are scheduled to be released in the next couple months and projects will finally be able to enter open certification.  This lawsuit places SITES in a negative light at a time when we should be celebrating.  SITES staff and ASLA have worked diligently to get the USGBC on board.  Before the lawsuit, SITES was close to signing an agreement with the USGBC and GBCI to administer the professional development credentialing program and certification process.  Due to this nonsense, the partnership has been put on hold.  The lawsuit is not a good use of funds. ASLA will most likely spend more money on litigation than was ever spent on the development of SITES.  Does that make sense?!?  Do we want to give the future of our profession to the lawyers?  It is not cheap to sue the State of Texas or anyone else for that matter.

Comment by Heather L. Venhaus on October 16, 2013 at 4:27pm

Charles - you obviously have not read SITES closely or either don't understand it.  It is a performance base metric - the opposite of prescriptive design.  Also, I challenge you to certify a project.  In my work, I have found that those who believe they have been "doing it for 40 years" have great difficulty meeting the minimum criteria.  

Comment by Charles A. Warsinske on October 16, 2013 at 4:06pm

Interesting.  Two entities fighting over who will make money selling another guide to prescriptive design.  There is nothing new in the SITES project except adding points up to get to some magical level so you can pin a gold star on your wall.  We really don't need another entity telling us how to design sustainable projects.  We have been doing this for over 40 years.

Comment by Steven Rodie on October 16, 2013 at 3:56pm

Hi Heather - definitely disappointing to see. Just saw the announcements; have read both press statements that describe very different points of view. What do you think the key disagreement is and what will take to resolve?

Comment by Heather L. Venhaus on October 16, 2013 at 3:46pm

I would like to start a discussion about ASLA's recent lawsuit "Petition to Protect SITES".  Having worked for many years on the SITES project, I can tell you there are two sides to this story. To gain a full understanding, I recommend readers also review UT/Wildflower Center official statement - http://www.wildflower.org/press/index.php?link=press&id=288

We all want a better, more sustainable future.  I am confused at how this sort litigious bickering helps that goal. SITES is at an important juncture, SITES v2 is scheduled for release and in the next couple months open certification for all project will begin. ASLA is risking the last seven years of work and progress. Landscape Architects and many other professionals have given time and expertise with the hopes of creating a rating system for site sustainability. If SITES is shed in a negative light, ASLA members can thank their leadership.  I encourage you all to think critically about this issue and ask the hard questions to both the ASLA leadership and the staff at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center who have led the development of SITES.

 

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