The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES)

Rating System

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The SITES  is a nationally recognized third-party endorsement of green building features in a project. Used by property buyers and tenants alike, the certification conveys an efficient and high performance building with lower running costs.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative CERTIFICATION FEATURES

What Is It


The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) rating system is a comprehensive framework that promotes sustainable land development and landscape design practices. It provides guidelines, benchmarks, and performance metrics to evaluate the sustainability and environmental impact of outdoor spaces. From parks and gardens to corporate campuses and public infrastructure, the SITES rating system aims to transform landscapes into resilient, regenerative, and ecologically beneficial environments.

The objective of the SITES rating system is to revolutionize the way we design, develop, and manage landscapes by integrating nature, conservation principles, and sustainable practices into the built environment. It recognizes that landscapes have immense potential to contribute to environmental sustainability, human well-being, and the restoration of ecosystems.

By implementing the SITES rating system, project teams can strive for site-specific sustainability goals and create landscapes that go beyond aesthetics. The rating system provides a framework for addressing key elements such as site selection, water efficiency, energy use, materials selection, biodiversity, human health and well-being, and cultural and historical significance. It encourages the use of innovative strategies and best practices to minimize environmental impacts, conserve resources, and enhance ecological functionality.

The SITES rating system operates on a credit-based system, where projects earn points for meeting specific criteria within each category. The points accumulated determine the level of certification awarded, ranging from one to four stars. This certification provides recognition and validates the project’s commitment to sustainability, setting it apart as a leader in environmentally responsible design and land management.

By adopting the SITES rating system, landscape architects, designers, developers, and land managers can contribute to a more sustainable future. The system encourages collaboration, innovation, and the integration of nature and ecosystem services into the built environment. It promotes the creation of landscapes that not only enhance the quality of life for individuals but also mitigate climate change, conserve resources, and support biodiversity.

Ultimately, the SITES rating system is a transformative tool that fosters a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness between land, people, and the environment. It provides a pathway for the creation of landscapes that balance human needs with ecological integrity, resulting in healthier, more resilient, and sustainable communities.

What is SITES rating system

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Criteria and Certification Levels

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) rating system utilizes a comprehensive set of criteria to assess the sustainability and environmental performance of landscapes. These criteria cover various aspects of land development and design, promoting sustainable practices and enhancing ecological functionality. The SITES rating system offers several certification levels to recognize the achievement of sustainability goals and encourage continuous improvement.

The criteria of the SITES rating system span across several categories, including site context, water, soil, vegetation, materials, human health, and construction and maintenance practices. These categories address key elements that contribute to sustainable land development and management, such as site selection, stormwater management, biodiversity conservation, soil health, energy efficiency, and the use of recycled materials.

The certification levels in the SITES rating system are as follows:

  1. One Star Certification: Projects that achieve basic levels of sustainability by meeting the fundamental requirements across various categories. This level signifies a commitment to incorporating sustainable practices but does not demonstrate significant advancements in sustainability performance.

  2. Two Star Certification: Projects that demonstrate a substantial commitment to sustainability by meeting a higher threshold of performance requirements across the categories. This level indicates a notable improvement in sustainability performance and a more comprehensive approach to sustainable land development.

  3. Three Star Certification: Projects that go beyond basic sustainability requirements and demonstrate exceptional performance in several categories. This level signifies a significant achievement in sustainability, showcasing innovative practices, and providing measurable environmental benefits.

  4. Four Star Certification: Projects that represent the highest level of sustainability and exemplify outstanding performance across all categories. This level signifies exemplary leadership in sustainable land development, showcasing advanced strategies, and achieving exceptional environmental, social, and economic benefits.

The certification levels provide recognition for projects that prioritize sustainability and achieve different degrees of environmental performance. They serve as benchmarks for measuring the sustainability of landscapes and offer motivation for continuous improvement in sustainable practices.

By adhering to the criteria and pursuing certification in the SITES rating system, landscape architects, designers, developers, and land managers can showcase their commitment to sustainable land development and contribute to the creation of resilient, regenerative, and ecologically sound environments.

SITES criteria and certification levels

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Different CASBEE Certifications

  1. The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) offers a range of certifications to recognize the sustainable practices and achievements of landscape projects. These certifications demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship, regenerative design, and the creation of landscapes that contribute positively to ecological health and human well-being. Let’s explore the different certifications available within the SITES rating system.

    1. SITES Certified: This is the entry-level certification and signifies that a project has met the basic requirements of the SITES rating system. It demonstrates a commitment to sustainable practices and sets a foundation for further sustainability improvements.

    2. SITES Silver: Projects achieving SITES Silver certification have demonstrated a higher level of sustainability performance, exceeding the basic requirements across various categories. This certification recognizes substantial achievement in sustainable land development and the integration of innovative practices.

    3. SITES Gold: SITES Gold certification represents a significant accomplishment in sustainable design and development. These projects showcase exceptional performance across multiple categories, incorporating advanced strategies and demonstrating leadership in sustainable practices.

    4. SITES Platinum: This is the highest level of certification within the SITES rating system. Projects that achieve SITES Platinum certification exemplify exemplary leadership in sustainable land development and design. They showcase outstanding performance across all categories, incorporating cutting-edge strategies and achieving exceptional environmental, social, and economic benefits.

    Each certification level builds upon the previous one, reflecting a progressive approach to sustainability and encouraging continuous improvement in project performance. The certifications provide recognition for the efforts and achievements of landscape architects, designers, developers, and land managers in creating sustainable and regenerative landscapes.

    By pursuing SITES certifications, projects can showcase their commitment to sustainability, gain industry recognition, and demonstrate their contribution to environmental conservation and human well-being. The certification levels serve as benchmarks for measuring sustainability performance and inspire others to strive for higher standards of sustainable land development.

    Ultimately, the different SITES certifications provide a framework to evaluate and celebrate the achievements of landscape projects that prioritize sustainability, resilience, and the integration of nature into the built environment.

Each of the above ratings are detailed systems of credits and prerequisites. The certification process is equally complex. Consult a green building specialist to determine which rating system your project should adopt to reap the maximum benefit out of the certification without paying extra for the same brand. 

Different SITES certification


Registration and Rating Procedure

The registration and rating procedure of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) rating system involves several steps that guide project teams through the process of assessing and certifying the sustainability performance of landscape projects. Here is an overview of the registration and rating procedure:

  1. Preparation: The project team familiarizes themselves with the SITES rating system, criteria, and certification requirements. They gather necessary project information, including site plans, designs, and documentation related to sustainability strategies.

  2. Registration: The project team registers the project online through the SITES certification portal. They provide project details, contact information, and pay the required registration fees.

  3. Preliminary Review: The SITES program staff reviews the registration materials and provides feedback to the project team. They assess if the project meets the minimum eligibility requirements and offer guidance on documentation and certification process.

  4. Documentation and Assessment: The project team collects and prepares the necessary documentation to demonstrate compliance with the SITES criteria. This may include site plans, reports, calculations, specifications, and other relevant information. The project team also conducts an assessment of the project’s sustainability performance based on the SITES criteria.

  5. Submission: The project team submits the documentation package online through the SITES certification portal. The submission includes all required documentation, forms, and supporting materials.

  6. Review and Evaluation: The submitted documentation undergoes a thorough review and evaluation by independent assessors. They assess the project’s compliance with the SITES criteria and verify the accuracy and completeness of the documentation.

  7. Rating Determination: Based on the assessment, the project is assigned a rating level, such as Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum, depending on the level of sustainability achievement.

  8. Certification: Once the rating level is determined, the project is awarded the corresponding SITES certification. The project team receives an official certificate and is granted permission to use the SITES certification logo for promotional purposes.

Throughout the process, project teams have access to resources, guidance, and support from the SITES program staff. The rating procedure emphasizes transparency, accountability, and rigorous evaluation to ensure the integrity and credibility of the SITES certification.

By following the registration and rating procedure, landscape projects can demonstrate their commitment to sustainable design and land development, contribute to environmental conservation, and inspire others to embrace sustainable practices.

The World of Green Building Certifications:

Professional Credentials

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) recognizes the expertise and knowledge of professionals in the field of sustainable landscape design, development, and land management through its Professional Credentials program. These credentials provide a means for individuals to demonstrate their proficiency and commitment to sustainable practices. Let’s explore the different Professional Credentials offered by the SITES rating system.

  1. SITES Accredited Professional (SITES AP): The SITES AP credential is designed for professionals who have demonstrated a thorough understanding of the SITES rating system and sustainable landscape practices. SITES APs have passed a comprehensive exam that tests their knowledge in areas such as site assessment, design, construction, operations, and maintenance. They are equipped with the expertise to guide projects towards SITES certification and play a crucial role in implementing sustainable strategies.

  2. SITES Fellow: The SITES Fellow is the highest level of recognition within the SITES Professional Credentials program. It is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of sustainable landscape design, development, and research. SITES Fellows have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and a long-standing commitment to advancing sustainable practices. They serve as ambassadors for the SITES rating system and contribute to its ongoing development and improvement.

These Professional Credentials highlight the knowledge, skills, and experience of individuals who are actively engaged in promoting sustainable land development and regenerative design. SITES APs and Fellows are instrumental in driving the adoption of sustainable practices in landscape projects, educating stakeholders about the benefits of sustainable design, and advocating for the integration of nature into the built environment.

By earning these credentials, professionals enhance their credibility, demonstrate their expertise, and distinguish themselves in the field of sustainable landscape design and development. They become part of a network of like-minded professionals, enabling knowledge sharing, collaboration, and the advancement of sustainable practices.

The SITES Professional Credentials program ensures that qualified professionals are available to support projects seeking SITES certification. These professionals contribute to the success of sustainable landscape projects by providing guidance, expertise, and leadership in incorporating sustainable strategies, ecological restoration, and the creation of landscapes that benefit both people and the environment.

If you are passionate about sustainable landscape design and development, pursuing a Professional Credential from the SITES rating system can elevate your career and make a positive impact on the future of our built environment.

SITES professional Credentials

Key Features

    1. The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) rating system is a comprehensive framework that promotes sustainable practices in the design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes. It provides a set of criteria and guidelines to evaluate the sustainability performance of outdoor spaces, including parks, gardens, campuses, and commercial sites. Here are the key features of the SITES rating system:

      1. Holistic Approach: SITES takes a holistic approach to sustainable land development by considering the interconnections between the natural environment, human health and well-being, and community benefits. It encourages the integration of ecological, social, and economic considerations to create landscapes that are environmentally responsible and socially beneficial.

      2. Performance-based Criteria: The SITES rating system uses a performance-based approach, focusing on measurable outcomes rather than prescriptive solutions. It sets specific criteria in various categories, such as site selection, water conservation, vegetation, materials, and human health, which projects must meet to achieve certification.

      3. Flexible and Scalable: SITES is designed to be flexible and scalable, accommodating a wide range of project types, sizes, and contexts. Whether it’s a small urban park or a large-scale development, the rating system can be applied to assess and improve the sustainability performance of diverse landscapes.

      4. Integration of Science and Innovation: SITES integrates the latest scientific research, best practices, and innovative strategies into its criteria. It encourages projects to go beyond standard sustainability practices and explore cutting-edge approaches that contribute to regenerative design and the restoration of ecological systems.

      5. Stakeholder Engagement: SITES emphasizes stakeholder engagement throughout the design, construction, and maintenance phases of a project. It encourages collaboration among project teams, clients, community members, and experts to ensure that diverse perspectives are considered and that the landscape meets the needs and aspirations of its users.

      6. Third-Party Verification: To ensure credibility and objectivity, the SITES rating system requires third-party verification of project documentation and performance. Independent assessors evaluate project submissions and conduct on-site visits to validate compliance with the SITES criteria and verify the reported sustainability achievements.

      7. Continuous Improvement: SITES is a dynamic rating system that undergoes continuous improvement and updates based on feedback, research, and advancements in sustainable practices. It encourages the sharing of lessons learned and fosters a community of practice to drive the evolution and refinement of sustainable landscape design and development.

      The key features of the SITES rating system make it a robust and reliable tool for promoting sustainability in landscape projects. By incorporating these features, SITES enables the creation of landscapes that enhance ecosystem services, conserve resources, support human health and well-being, and contribute to the resilience and vitality of communities.

      Whether you are a landscape architect, designer, developer, or stakeholder involved in land development, the SITES rating system provides a roadmap for creating sustainable, regenerative, and impactful outdoor spaces. It guides projects towards achieving certification, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability, and inspiring others to embrace responsible land development practices.

SITES key features
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Pros and Cons of Implementation

Implementing the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) rating system offers numerous benefits in promoting sustainable land development practices. However, it also comes with certain considerations. Here are the pros and cons of implementing the SITES rating system:


  1. Enhanced Sustainability: The SITES rating system provides a comprehensive framework for assessing and improving the sustainability performance of outdoor spaces. By implementing SITES, projects can achieve higher levels of environmental responsibility, resource efficiency, and social benefits, leading to more sustainable and resilient landscapes.

  2. Recognition and Credibility: Certification under the SITES rating system provides recognition and credibility for projects. It demonstrates a commitment to sustainable practices and can enhance a project’s reputation, attracting stakeholders, investors, and users who prioritize environmentally responsible developments.

  3. Improved Environmental Performance: SITES promotes the preservation and restoration of natural ecosystems, encouraging projects to integrate green infrastructure, conserve water, manage stormwater, and protect biodiversity. Implementing SITES helps minimize environmental impacts and contributes to the conservation and enhancement of ecosystem services.

  4. Health and Well-being Benefits: SITES emphasizes creating outdoor spaces that support human health and well-being. By incorporating features such as access to nature, active transportation, and comfortable amenities, SITES-certified projects can enhance the physical, mental, and social well-being of users, fostering healthier and more livable communities.

  5. Long-Term Cost Savings: Integrating sustainable practices from the outset can lead to long-term cost savings. SITES encourages efficient use of resources, such as water and energy, and promotes strategies that minimize maintenance and operational costs over the project’s lifespan. These cost savings can positively impact the economic viability of the development.


  1. Additional Costs: Implementing the SITES rating system may entail additional costs, including fees for certification, documentation requirements, and engaging third-party assessors. It is important to allocate resources for meeting the SITES criteria and engaging experts to ensure compliance, which can increase upfront project costs.

  2. Complexity and Learning Curve: The SITES rating system is comprehensive and involves a detailed evaluation of multiple criteria. This complexity may present a learning curve for project teams, especially those new to sustainable landscape design. It requires sufficient knowledge, expertise, and coordination to successfully navigate the certification process.

  3. Regional Adaptability: SITES, originally developed for the United States, may require adaptation to suit local contexts and regional regulations in other parts of the world. Implementing SITES in different regions may involve additional efforts to align with local sustainability goals, climate conditions, and regulatory frameworks.

  4. Time and Effort: Achieving SITES certification requires substantial time and effort throughout the project lifecycle. From the initial design phase to ongoing maintenance, project teams must continuously monitor and report performance, engage stakeholders, and ensure compliance with the SITES criteria. This commitment of time and effort can be demanding for project teams.

  5. Market Acceptance: While sustainability certifications are gaining recognition, market acceptance of the SITES rating system may vary. It is important to assess the market demand and the specific benefits of SITES certification in the targeted industry or sector to ensure it aligns with project goals and stakeholders’ priorities.

Overall, the implementation of the SITES rating system offers numerous advantages in promoting sustainable land development and creating resilient outdoor spaces. However, it is essential to consider the associated costs, complexities, and regional adaptability, as well as assess the market demand and the specific benefits for each project before committing to the certification process. By weighing the pros and cons, project teams can make informed decisions about adopting the SITES rating system to achieve their sustainability objectives.

SITES pros and cons
Attadeep master
Attadeep master
April 21, 2023.
Execellant approach right from baseline to expert level. It is to beneficial both for a novice as well as professionals.
Shekhar Gupta
Shekhar Gupta
April 21, 2023.
Mr. Anupam has vast knowledge on the subject and has set stringent parameters for analysis of the building / project. The data produced will be used to obtain the Green certifications from various authorities. He has induced a sense of LIFE and our responsibility towards the environment through the building department.
Sanjay Kumar
Sanjay Kumar
April 21, 2023.
Nice company with deep and vast experiences in the field green building design and consultation
Kapil Gupta
Kapil Gupta
April 21, 2023.
Fantastic lecture series, well curated presentation materials, in depth understanding of Green building ratings mechanism and friendly behaviour. It was three days workshop and this was the best time for me to understand green buidling rating mechanism and interaction with one of the highly skilled Green Building consultant as well as a great human being. Thanks for it.
aishwarya richa
aishwarya richa
April 21, 2023.
Knowledge about each topic is quite appreciable. Professional, technical soundness about green bldg with architect view is quite helpful for understanding basics. His workshop is worth attending.
Biplab Nath
Biplab Nath
April 21, 2023.
I have undergone training for GHAR rating system . Mr Jain is immensely knowledgeable and helped me in acquiring the same upto my satisfaction within a short period of time.
narendra pathak
narendra pathak
April 21, 2023.
Excellent demonstration regarding green building norms and methods of rating based on GHAR green building criteria .
Joydeep Sengupta
Joydeep Sengupta
April 21, 2023.
Enjoyed thoroughly each session of the training program attended at CPWD Training Academy. It has been great exchanges of ideas. Learnt a lot from Mr Anupam Jain on the existing Green rating systems, the practices in the real world and last but not the least, the newly developed rating system of CPWD, that is GHAR.
Narendra Sharma
Narendra Sharma
April 21, 2023.
Very useful for us. We learnt a lot.


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