Green Buildings 101: Sustainable Sites (SS)

One of the first sections of any LEED reference guide is Sustainable Sites.  Understanding SS is one of the first steps on a LEED project. Why do you think that is? Is there a reason why it is the first section?  Understanding what this section is about will let us understand these questions.
SS is the first section of LEED as it is the first thought that a developer, contractor, company, design firm, etc. need to think of before a project can begin and break ground.  What site to choose?  Where to build?  Where to move your company?....

Sustainable Sites has these prospective people thinking of finding a location:

1.      that needs to be redeveloped or that might need to be redeemed
2.      that is close to public transportation, housing and amenities for employees
3.      that will have developed strategies to maximize outdoor space
4.      that will have developed strategies to protect water ways and overall surrounding environment

Sustainable Sites section has 8 credits that help in understanding how to achieve the above listed items. These credits show the how to, the requirements and give examples of strategies and potential technologies.  There is a prerequisite, which has to be met, that states the construction site needs to be protected and that no pollution happens from site activity. The 8 credits are:

1.      Credit 1, Site Selection – choosing a site that reduces environmental impact from the location of a building on a site.
2.      Credit 2, Development Density & Community Connectivity – developing in urban areas with existing infrastructure, protect greenfields and preserve habitat and natural resources.
3.      Credit 3, Brownfield Redevelopment – rehabilitate sites that are contaminated to reduce pressure on undeveloped lands.
4.      Credit 4, Alternative Transportation: 4 options – reduce pollution and land development impacts from automobile use.  This gets one thinking about public transportation, bicycles, energy efficient vehicles and parking capacity.
5.      Credit 5, Site Development : 2 options – Promoting biodiversity by conserving existing natural areas and restoring damaged areas or having a high ratio of open space to development footprint.
6.      Credit 6, Stormwater Design: 2 options, Quantity and Quality control –  limiting distribution and pollution of natural water flow by managing stormwater runoff and / or reducing impervious cove, increasing on-site infiltration, reducing or eliminating pollution from stormwater runoff, and eliminating contaminants.
7.      Credit 7, Heat Island Effect: 2 options, Non-roof and Roof – Reducing heat island (thermal gradient differences between developed and undeveloped area) to minimize impact on microclimate, human and wildlife habitat.
8.      Credit 8, Light Pollution Reduction – minimize light trespass from the building and site, this would reduce sky-glow to increase night sky access, improve nighttime visibility through glare reduction, and reduce development impact on nocturnal environments.

Overall choosing a site is the first step in any project and by understanding the credits of this section, we would understand that the Sustainable Sites (SS) section defines the need to:

1.      Choose a site to build on that has been built on by others.
2.      Choose a site that is close to transportation, amenities and housing.
3.      Redevelop and/ redeem a site to make it both ecologically friendly and environmentally friendly.
4.      Reduce the impact of heat island effect and light pollution that impacts our ecosystem and human health.
5.      Protect our air and water ways from pollution.

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