GBCI Launches SITES, its Newly Acquired Rating System for Sustainable Landscapes

Author: Marisa Long
Published on: Wednesday, June 10, 2015

SITES addresses global concerns such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and resource depletion through sustainable landscape design and management

June 10, 2015 (Washington, D.C.) – Today, Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) launched its newly acquired SITES rating system, the most comprehensive program and toolkit for developing sustainable landscapes.

SITES was developed through a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort 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. The rating system can be applied to development projects located on sites with or without buildings – ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, streetscapes and homes, and much more.

“Landscapes knit together the fabric of our communities,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO, GBCI. “And sustainable landscapes are critical in their ability to reduce water demand, filter and reduce storm water runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and increase outdoor recreation opportunities. SITES is an important addition to our toolkit, and GBCI appreciates this opportunity to support this additional contribution to healthy, thriving communities and neighborhoods.”

“It is exciting to see years of work developing and field testing SITES culminate with the availability of this rating system,” said Fritz Steiner, FASLA, dean of the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin. “The depth and breadth of approaches that were implemented by pilot projects demonstrates how valuable SITES can become for revolutionizing our relationships with built landscapes.”

“Landscape architects and members of all the related design and planning fields know that the issues addressed in SITES are increasingly important to creating livable and resilient communities,” said Nancy C. Somerville, executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). “GBCI will take SITES to the next level and ensure its future growth and influence, and ASLA is pleased to provide continued education and communications support.”

“SITES is a powerful tool for enhancing built landscapes precisely because it puts ecosystem services, the benefits humans derive from functional ecosystems, front and center,” said Ari Novy, executive director of the United States Botanic Garden. “This approach will help maximize our collective ability to create sustainable and healthy communities. Making SITES available through GBCI will be a great boon for the quality and resilience of our built landscapes.”

The SITES rating system uses progressive industry standards for landscape design and incorporates additional recommendations from technical experts in the fields of soil science, botany and horticulture, hydrology, materials, and human health and well-being. Some of the credits for sustainable landscape performance have been developed in alignment with similar credits in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system, the world’s most widely used green building program.

SITES, originally modeled after LEED, includes best practices in landscape architecture, ecological restoration and related fields as well as knowledge gained through peer-reviewed literature, case-study precedents and projects registered in the SITES pilot program.

“Adding SITES to GBCI’s rapidly growing list of certification systems and credentials it supports not only expands GBCI’s capabilities, but it also helps us to further our mission to enact global sustainable change,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president, GBCI.

SITES draws on the experience gained from a two-year pilot program involving more than 100 projects. Forty-six of these pilot projects have achieved certification, including landscape projects at corporate headquarters, national and city parks, academic campuses and private homes.

Interested project teams can visit for more information and to register their projects and access the SITES v2: Rating System For Sustainable Land Design and Development, a guide that provides best practices, performance benchmarks and tools for creating ecologically resilient landscapes and rewards successful projects through certification.

The Wildflower Center and ASLA will help GBCI create and implement SITES credentialing and certification offerings such as training project reviewers and will provide educational opportunities for pursuing SITES certification.



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The School of Landscape Architecture is proud to share the best student work of Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 in an eclectic collection of designs at the nexus of art and science. The exhibit reveals the analytical thinking and design skills that create truly beautiful spaces, adding value to the built environment around the world.










In addition to our exhibit of student work within the Spring Show, the School of Landscape Architecture was given the honor and opportunity to design two outdoor installations in front of the exhibition hall.  The Main Entrance was based on the award-winning student design from the 2015 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show by Eric Arneson, BFA and Nahal Sohbati, MFA. The entry creates an enjoyable welcome to all who attend the Spring Show!












The School of Landscape Architecture was extremely proud to host its first industry portfolio review at the Spring Show opening on Monday May 18th. A special thank you to our portfolio review panel, April Phillips of April Phillips Design Works, Haley Waterson of CMG, and  Lauren Hackney of CMG whose review and feedback on student portfolios was truly invaluable.










We encourage you to visit the Spring Show Exhibit which will be on display until Friday June 26th @ 2225 Jerrold Ave, San Francisco, CA, 94124. Exhibit Hours: Monday May 18th – Friday June 26th, 10 AM – 5 PM, Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays and holidays.


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Landscape Architecture Students Design Expansion for NOMADgardens


Article by: Celeste Sunderland

Photos by: Yasmine Farazian

A rainbow hued chain of origami cranes hung from a fence beside a garden design by Academy of Art University sophomore Jerry Doan. She and five other students from the School of Landscape Architecture presented proposals for an expansion of NOMADgardens on April 18, when the Mission Bay community garden celebrated their one-year anniversary with cocktails and cake.

The cranes, Doan explained, illustrate her idea for an origami workshop in the garden for children battling cancer at the nearby UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. “In Asia, we believe that if you make 100 cranes you can make a wish,” she said. “When I was five years old, I did it, and I think the wish came true.”

Inspired by the new hospital and a family housing facility under construction, several of the students from Yasmine Farazian’s second year studio class LAN 250, showcased creative ideas for children in their designs. Erick Munoz’s design featured a fire pit for marshmallow toasting, while Mia Liu’s design included garden containers just for kids.

A festive atmosphere filled the sunny space as the students showed their designs to passing neighbors, community gardeners, NOMAD volunteers and members of the Mission Bay Development Group. “They look fantastic,” said Director of Design and Planning at Mission Bay Development Group Luke Stewart. “We love seeing the ideas, they’ve done really good work. What’s really exciting about NOMAD is that they’ve been able to transform this empty lot into something that has a lot of community activity and engagement. One of the challenges is figuring out how to better activate and program this space, and I think that’s one of the things these proposals start to look at, how best to program this space so it’s active all week long.”


To address that challenge, and also as a way to generate revenue, the students incorporated things like market stands, private rental spaces, and stages for live performances and movie screenings. “It was exciting to see the students really engage with the idea of doing something for the community that’s going to have a positive benefit,” Farazian said. “They considered all the variables, including how the garden can be a node or identity marker for Mission Bay by introducing programing that really benefits the demographics of the people that live in this area.”

NOMADgardens founder Stephanie Goodson and School of Landscape Architecture Director Heather Clendenin started talking last summer about how the Academy could be involved with the project. The curriculum for LAN 250, the first undergraduate landscape studio, proved itself to be an excellent fit. Students visited the site and started working on their site analysis in February, giving them just about a month to develop their designs.

“It was a whole different experience actually having a client and trying to fulfill her needs and the community’s,” said Munoz. “And it was also really fun being able to enhance the design of something that already exists and add on to it. It was a completely fun experience throughout the whole process.”

The NOMADgardens project joins a growing number of “real world” assignments tackled by students in the School of Landscape Architecture, including designs for Ridge Lane, Bethany Center, and the Connecticut Friendship Garden. Goodson was pleased with the students’ work, and is looking forward to securing some funding to facilitate the next steps in the garden’s expansion. “It was really neat to see people getting so excited and saying ‘Wow, there’s a lot of possibility here,’” she said.




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Undoubtedly by now you have heard the devastating news of the 7.9 earthquake that has killed thousands, left hundreds of thousands homeless, and has torn families apart in Nepal. NEPAL NEEDS YOUR HELP! Below you will find information on ways to donate to the relief effort.

Charmadingma, Chhuserma, Gomela, Sano-Gomela
of the Solukhumbu District (Everest region)

The earthquake of April 25, 2015 devastated these rural villages, including homes, schools, shops and monasteries. All residents of our village, Chhuserma, lost their homes in the quake and devastating aftershocks days after. Off the main Everest trail, these villages are easily forgotten by the Nepalese government and international relief efforts. THEY NEED YOUR HELP!

Monsoon season will hinder relief efforts.

Over 7,000 people have lost their lives and millions are homeless. Rural villages have been destroyed. Rural Nepal has been devastated, and so has our Solukhumbu District. Basic essentials, like food, clean water, first aid, blankets and shelter are vital. Getting immediate assistance to these villagers is important. Although the forests provide mushrooms and wild greens in spring, it is not enough to provide basic sustenance needs. Their food stores have been damaged and the fields not yet ready for harvest. Relief flights to Lukla are few. People are living in their greenhouses with what they could salvage from the rubble of their homes.

I hear desperation and terror in the voices of family and friends that I’ve spoken with on the phone and in their Facebook accounts. Getting immediate aid to the villagers of the Solukhumbu is critical. They need your help!



FOR IMMEDIATE RELIEF, GO TO THE BEYUL HERMITAGE + FARM NGIMA AND CARYL SHERPA are doubling donations up to a total of $25,000.


  • To CREATE AN ACCOUNT, click the blue sign-up button at the top right corner of PayPal webpage.
  • Select option: Pay or send money to
  • Friends & Family
  • Send your donation to:

Caryl Sherpa, 340 Coleman Dr, San Rafael, CA 94901

WRITE “Solukhumbu District” on the check.  Money will be sent via wire transfer for immediate use in theses villages to provide basic needs and help with rebuilding.


We are partnering with BMKF, a Seattle 501 (c) (3) non-profit. Their mission is to “empower the women of Nepal through higher education.” They have mobilized their organization in full support of earthquake relief.


IMPORTANT: To earmark donation to BMKF for rural villages of

EMAIL donation confirmation to –

On Wednesday, April 29th, BMKF sent $22,000 to Nepal to provide blankets, food, water and basis essentials to residents of the Kathmandu Valley. Our heartfelt thanks to all who contributed so much, so quickly!

*BMKF donations are tax deductible.
*100% of BOTH FUNDS go to quake relief aid and rebuilding.


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Sand Sculpture Social | Friday May 8th

2015 - Sand Sculpture


Join the Schools of Landscape Architecture and Fine Art Sculpture on Friday May 8th at San Francisco’s Aquatic Park (North of Ghirardelli Square) to build sand sculptures along the shore.

Meet at the Cannery, 3rd floor, Suite 300 @ 6:15. We will walk to Aquatic Park from here and enjoy an evening in the sand!

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NOMADgardens Tailgate Party & LAN 250 Student Work Showcase!

Final Presentation Board_2_Mia_Liu


Join the School of Landscape Architecture at NOMADgardens on Saturday April 18th, as we celebrate their first successful year of existence, and the conception of excellent vision plans created by students of LAN 250!!!

NOMADgardens is Turning ONE! Let’s Tailgate!!

NOMADgardens is turning 1! And because it’s the first weekend home game for the Giants, we thought a tailgate party would be appropriate. So come hang with us at the garden and help us celebrate an amazing year as well as kickoff year 2! We will be celebrating our amazing volunteers, gardeners and donors who are helping us build and sustain a healthy Mission Bay community.

WHAT: Tailgate Party – NOMADgardens Turns 1, Cake will be served @1pm! Food + Drinks will be available to purchase.


  • You + your friends
  • Picnic Blanket or Lawn Chair
  • SF Giant Spirit! (Bay Area apparel will be available to purchase!)
  • Donations – Yep, a plug! We’re a non-profit and right now rely solely on donations. So, if you like our vision, and believe in our model, please consider making a donation.

OUR VISION: Along with our celebration, we’ll also be looking to the future: 6 visions. Six students from the Academy of Art School of Landscape Architecture, will display their vision for NOMADgardens. We would love to hear what you would like to see in Mission Bay!

Looking forward to seeing you at the garden. I really can’t believe it’s been a year!
- Stephanie Goodson, Founder


Date: Saturday April 18th, 2014

Time: 11:00am – 5:00pm

Location: @ the Garden – 1401 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94158

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The Market Street Prototyping Festival is finally here!!!!

Join the School of Landscape Architecture on Friday April 10th from 3:30pm – 6:20pm to walk along Market Street. We will be seeing and experiencing all of the innovative designs created by artists and designers that have been set out to help make Market Street a more dynamic and pedestrian friendly space.

Meet: @ 3:30pm in front of the Asian Art Museum – Corner of McAllister and Larkin

Bring: Camera and Sketchbook

Wear: Comfortable Shoes – We will be walking from Civic Center down to the Embarcadero

Look forward to seeing you there!

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Faculty Lecture; Todd Gilens ~ a collection of Public Artwork focused on landscape ecology


Join The School of Landscape Architecture on Friday April 10th from 2-3pm for a lecture by instructor Todd Gilens. Todd’s lecture will focus on a collection of his Public Artwork focused on landscape ecology.

When: Friday April 10th, 2015

Where: The Cannery – 3rd Floor – Room B


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World Landscape Architecture Month 2015

WLAM Card Insert (1) (1)

What better way to promote the profession of Landscape Architecture than harnessing the power of social media to show the world what Landscape Architects do!

Join the Celebration!
Here’s how to celebrate World Landscape Architecture Month with ASLA

  1. Print the image above and cut out the card
  2.  Take a picture with it at your favorite landscape-architect-designed space
  3. Share it on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc…)with the hashtag #WLAM and #WLAM2015 (other suggested hastags include: #landscapearchitecture, #landarch, #art, #design, #aaulandarch, and/or any other hashtag you think would help promote the profession!)
  4.  Submit it to
  5.  See how others are celebrating at


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A Clean Sweep for Landscape Architecture!


Excitement and cheers reverberated throughout the San Mateo Event Center at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show Gala on Tuesday, March 17th.  Students of the School of Landscape Architecture celebrated a well-deserved total of seven awards, including the Best of Show’s Golden Gate Cup, for the design and installation of their garden titled “Sublimation”.


The awards included: the 2015 Garden Creator Gold Medal, the Garden Creator Award, and awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum Society, and the Garden Conservancy. In addition to those mentioned above, the Golden Gate Cup Award for the Best of Show was presented to our students during the opening ceremonies. Garden Show Director Daniel Owens stated, “In the thirty year history of the show, no garden creator has ever won this many award categories. It’s a clean sweep!!!”


The dedicated design team of Eric Arneson, BFA and Nahal Sohbati, MFA began exploring the concept of “sublimation” last August. “Sublimation” is scientifically defined as the transition of a substance directly from solid to gas without passing through the intermediate liquid phase. In this installation, sublimation is redefined by an emphasis on both the contrasts of and transitions from solid to void, opaque to transparent, and hard to soft. Stones, gabions and bold specimen plants are juxtaposed by an ethereal sculpture, epiphytic green walls, flowing grasses, and other plants that thrive in the California coastal climate. Circulation throughout the garden is a sublime experience of contrasting elements resulting in a harmonious serenity.

IMG_8789SFFGS - Vision and ImplementationIn addition, the space is designed as a system that responds directly to the current California water crisis. Locally sourced stone, and beautiful specimens of drought tolerant plants prove that outdoor spaces can be designed to be resourceful while being enjoyable and beautiful. Plants are identified in the garden not only by common and Latin names name but in terms of the amount of water needed to sustain healthy growth over time. Additionally, the creative use of elements such as galvanized metal gabions create the spatial framework and add layers of visual complexity.


Over the course of a five-day build, dedicated students of the ASLA Student Affiliate Chapter of the School of Landscape Architecture volunteered their time to help transform the event center’s large barren shell and concrete floor into a garden oasis that impressed judges and visitors throughout the length of the show. Over one hundred and fifty gabions, two hundred sandbags, twenty four tons of river rock, fifteen cubic yards of decomposed granite, and hundreds of drought tolerant plants were meticulously assembled and placed within the garden space. Despite the intense demands  and time constraints of the construction, the forethought given to details and process  as well as the collaborative spirit  of all involved ensured that  each challenge was met with success.


When asked what one of the most important lessons of designing and building the installation has been, Nahal Sohbati stated: “That constraints can, in fact, be a designer’s best friend, and that learning to be flexible to work within these constraints is what makes the design process real.”

The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show has provided a rich, and for many, a life changing experience for our students over the past four years.  The opportunity to actually build a space that they have created confirms the relevance of the design process taught in the studios. Additionally, the lasting friendships and collaborative experiences that evolve during this process are invaluable to their growth as both individuals and professionals.
The School of Landscape Architecture is extremely proud of the immense effort that all students made to create a beautiful and inspiring space that was well designed, extremely well executed, and responsive to current regional issues. As Eric Arneson said: “The awards are a testament to the growth and success of the School of Landscape Architecture. In only in four years, it has gone from just a brand-new school to being a medal-winning program.”




Garden Photos Courtesy of Yasmine Farazian

Student and Group Photos courtesy of Bob Toy


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