The Sustainable Sites Handbook: A Complete Guide to the Principles, Strategies, and Best Practices for Sustainable Landscapes
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More About This Title The Sustainable Sites Handbook: A Complete Guide to the Principles, Strategies, and Best Practices for Sustainable Landscapes


Get the definitive resource guide for sustainable site design, construction, and management.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) is transforming land design, development, and management practices across the United States with the first national rating system for sustainable landscapes. The Sustainable Sites Handbook features comprehensive and detailed information on principles, strategies, technologies, tools, and best practices for sustainable site design. Contributors to this book are some of the same experts that carefully shaped the SITES rating tool, ensuring thorough coverage of the broad range of topics related to sustainable site design.

The Sustainable Sites Handbook offers in-depth coverage of design, construction, and management for systems of hydrology, vegetation, soils, materials, and human health and well-being. Focusing primarily on environmental site design and ecosystem services, this wide-ranging guide also covers issues of social equity, economic feasibility, and stewardship, which are crucial to the success of any sustainable site.

Equally useful as a handbook for obtaining SITES credits or for the independent development of sustainable sites, The Sustainable Sites Handbook is an indispensible resource for practicing professionals in landscape architecture, landscape design, architecture, civil engineering, land planning, horticulture, ecology, environmental engineering, landscape contracting, and parks and recreation management.


MEG CALKINS, ASLA, LEED AP, is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Ball State University. As an officer of ASLA's Sustainable Development Professional Practice Network, Meg was part of a small team that approached ASLA about forming the effort that eventually grew into the Sustainable Sites Initiative. Today, Meg is a member of the SITES Technical Core Committee. She served for many years on the LEED Sustainable Sites Technical Advisory Group. Meg is the author of Materials for Sustainable Sites and is an editorial advisory board member of and contributor to Landscape Architecture Graphic Standards, both published by Wiley. She holds master's degrees in both landscape architecture and architecture from the University of California at Berkeley.


Foreword ix
Michael Van Valkenburgh

Letter from SITES Partners xi

Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
Meg Calkins
Sustainable Site Design Defined 2
The Contents and Structure of This Book 27

Chapter 2 - Predesign: Site Selection, Assessment, and Planning 33
Heather Venhaus
Site Selection 33
Understanding the Site 41
Team Development and Planning Strategies 54
Developing Project Direction: Principles, Goals, and Performance Targets 58

Chapter 3 - Site Design: Water 65
Alfred Vick, John Calabria, Stuart Echols, Michael Ogden, and David Yocca
Sustainable Stormwater Management 72
Stormwater Design Approaches 104
Water Conservation 148
Onsite Wastewater Treatment, Disposal, and Reuse 166

Chapter 4 - Site Design: Vegetation 197
Steve Windhager, Mark Simm ons, and Jacob Blue
Vegetation and Ecosystem Services 202
Vegetation Protection Techniques 213
Sustainable Planting Design and Management 216

Chapter 5 - Site Design: Soils 247
Nina Bassuk and Susan Day
Integrating Soil into the Design Process 249
Soils in the Site Assessment 251
Soil Characteristics and Associated Tests 265
Managing Soils for a Sustainable Site 295
Soil Replacement and Specialized Soils 310
The Soil Management Plan 316

Chapter 6 - Site Design: Materials and R esources 323
Meg Calkins
The Lifecycle of Construction Materials and Products 327
Environmental Impacts of Materials and Products 331
Human Health Impacts of Materials 344
Evaluating Environmental and Human Health Impacts of Materials 348
Inventory and Analysis for Materials 358
Resource Efficiency 360
Low-VOC Materials and Products 390
Materials to Minimize Heat Island Impacts 390
Concrete 396
Aggregates and Stone 398
Asphalt 401
Brick Masonry 403
Earthen Materials 404
Plastics 407
Metals 409
Bio-Based Materials 413
Wood 416
Site Lighting 421

Chapter 7 - Human Health and Well-Being for Sustainable Sites 429
Robert Ryan
Assessing the Site’s Social Setting 432
Sustainability Awareness and Education 436
Social Equality in Site Development, Construction, and Use 440
Site Accessibility 445
Site Wayfinding 449
Site Safety 454
Design for Physical Activity 458
Restorative Settings 462
Design for Social Interaction and Community Building 466
Preserving Historic and Cultural Features 470

Chapter 8 - Operations, Maintenance, Monitoring, and Stewardship 479
Amy Belaire and David Yocca
Environmental and Human Health Impacts of Sustainable Site Operations, Maintenance, and Monitoring 480
Incorporating Operations, Maintenance, and Monitoring Considerations into Site Design 482
Monitoring to Inform Active and Adaptive Stewardship 519

Resources 521

Index 535


"Calkins and other experts cover all of the primary elements of site design in detail, from site assessment to soils, vegetation, and water.... landscape architects looking for a single resource to expand their technical knowledge base on sustainable site design would be hard pressed to find a better place to start." (, August 2012)

"The Sustainable Sites Handbook is indeed a major useful expansion of the LEEDS Green Building Rating System by bringing both rural open space and the social landscapes into determined sustainable design standards and appropriate maintenance criteria for use by all professional site planners. Soil mechanics and agricultural/horticultural soil systems are beautifully woven into this comprehensive evaluation of appropriate management of sites planning." (InSitu (International Institute of Site Planning), April 2012)

"The Book provides a thorough introduction to sustainable design, explaining sustainability and its integration into site design." (Garden Design Journal, July 2012)