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NREL Wins SITES Sustainable Landscaping Certification

NRELpondThe Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s campus won a SITES certification for sustainable landscaping after participating in the Sustainable Sites Initiative’s pilot program.

The pilot, which launched by in 2010, included 150 projects from 34 states. Roughly 30 acres on NREL‘s South Table Mountain campus in Golden, Colo. were included in the SITES certification. NREL and 15 other projects received SITES certification for sustainable site design, construction and maintenance. NREL’s rating came in at three out of a possible four stars.

As part of the SITES project, NREL incorporated low-impact development techniques that establish natural drainage for storm water and minimize impacts on local habitats.

A large part of the NREL SITES project was a new system for managing storm water from new buildings, parking lots, roads and other impervious surfaces. But this doesn’t look like just any detention pond, the lab says.

NREL’s pond (pictured) covers more than 5 acres and can detain more than 3 million gallons of storm water. It’s also a habitat for migratory birds and sees regular visits from deer as well as the occasional coyote and red fox.

The SITES certification is a partnership between the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden.

The US Green Building Council is also a stakeholder in the program, and anticipates incorporating the SITES guidelines and performance benchmarks into future LEED green building rating systems.

While LEED seeks to minimize the carbon footprint of buildings, SITES demonstrates how a landscape can actually sequester carbon and regenerate living systems. But building those systems requires careful site management planning — from day one of the project, NREL says.

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