UMass Dartmouth will join more than 150 other projects from 34 states as well as from Canada, Iceland and Spain as part of an international pilot project program to evaluate the new SITES rating system for sustainable landscapes, with and without buildings. Sustainable landscapes can clean water, reduce pollution and restore habitats, while providing significant economic and social benefits to land owners and municipalities.
SITES, a partnership of 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, selected UMass Dartmouth based on its dedication to sustainable practices, including its goal of evolving into a zero-carbon footprint campus and its new Living Classroom initiative which actively is evaluating and managing the University's 700 acre property for recreational, educational, conservation, and green development priorities.
The glass and concrete buildings as UMass Dartmouth were designed in the late 1960s for architectural impact rather than eco-friendliness. The University is challenged to maximize ways in which its buildings can become more carbon neutral using retrofits and evolving clean energy and energy conservation technologies. However, the built-environment of the University takes up less than half of its 700 acres, leaving the rest to fields, forests and wetlands that the Living Classroom initiative is researching for biodiversity and future land management recommendations.
Like the other pilot projects, the University will test the SITES point system for achieving different levels of sustainability on a 250-point scale, and the performance benchmarks associated with specific credits within the Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009. UMass Dartmouth has recently completed a thorough Sustainability Assessment that looks at the campus and its functions from twelve different sustainability perspectives" Food and Agriculture; Built Environment; Water; Waste; Purchasing; Transportation; Health and Wellness; Culture; Community; Academics, Energy, and Land Use. The Assessment is currently being published, and includes a Climate Action Plan for how the University will meet its sustainability goals.
SITES will use feedback from the University and the other selected projects during the pilot phase, which runs through June 2012, to revise the final rating system and reference guide by early 2013. The U.S. Green Building Council, a stakeholder in the Sustainable Sites Initiative, anticipates incorporating the guidelines and performance benchmarks into future iterations of its LEED® Green Building Rating System(TM). More information is available at: http://www.sustainablesites.org. For general media queries about SITES, go to www.sustainablesites.org/news/.
About the Sustainable Sites Initiative
The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) is an interdisciplinary partnership led by 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 to transform land development and management practices with the nation's first voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings. As these guidelines become the accepted practices by professionals and nonprofessionals alike, they will transform the ways we design and build on the land, creating landscapes that nourish life for generations to come. For more information, visit www.sustainablesites.org.
About the UMass Dartmouth Office of Campus and Community Sustainability
Created in 2007, the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability has been leading the University along the path chosen by Chancellor Jean MacCormack to achieve a carbon-neutral institution. Lessons in Sustainability have been added to campus academics, with an official Sustainability Department created this year. Undergraduates can already pursue a minor in Sustainability, while Graduates can earn a Sustainability Certificate and will in the next year or so be able to complete a Master's. Collaborative research projects in other science subjects that dovetail with sustainability have been underway at the University for many years. For more information, visit www.umassd.edu/sustainability.