Two of the newest and most exciting developments to promote high performance and sustainability are the SITES v2 rating system, (released in June 2015) and the SITES AP professional credential . For decades, the focus of green, sustainable and resilient design has been on buildings. But land can play an even bigger role in the built and natural environments to mitigate climate change, buffer and protect investments from storm events, support pollinators, clean water and air.
When I weighed whether to pursue a SITES AP as a landscape architect, I considered the time, financial investment and mental energy it would take to study and pass the exam and maintain accreditation. I was involved in USGBC’s Task Force to develop the knowledge/skill domains and statements for the SITES AP test, so I knew it would be comprehensive and rigorous, covering all aspects of site planning, analysis, design, construction and post-construction/land management.
But passing the test means additional responsibilities. SITES APs must keep current with the rating system development and updates to inform and facilitate the SITES certification process. SITES APs should also take time to promote this valuable system through professional and public education and outreach.
No small commitment!
I could continue to practice sustainable and regenerative site design as a landscape architect without being a SITES AP. I could use the SITES Rating System and Reference Guide as a framework for Studioverde’s design work and to help educate clients about the very real financial, social and environmental benefits of SITES certification. So why go the extra mile (or three)?
My decision to move forward, study for hours, fly to New Orleans and take the test, hinged on this realization: my core passion and interest to advance sustainable land-based design and market transformation would only happen as a SITES AP. I also realized that adding SITES AP to my skill set would provide added value to design teams that include other landscape architects, not as competitors but as collaborators.
Becoming a SITES AP is not for everyone. We all have our individual skills and strengths (or superpowers) and teaming with like-minded but complementary professionals for sustainable and resilient project outcomes may make the most sense. As I look back at my achievement of becoming a SITES AP, I see that, along with help from a team of talented Studioverde SITES collaborators, I am blazing a new trail – help clients who are serious about resiliency realize their goals for their land assets through SITES certification; and, collaborate and streamline the process for the design teams working with them.
Lisa Cowan, Professional Landscape Architect, SITES AP
Principal, Studioverde .