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Rhode Island Becomes First State to Embrace SITES Certification for Sustainable Land Development in Public Policy

State’s Green Buildings Act amended to include SITES and LEED for Neighborhood Development

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island – October 10, 2017 – In a groundbreaking legislative move, Rhode Island has become the first state to include the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) for land design and development in public policy. The Senate passed S-0952A/H-5427A amending its Green Building Act to include public lands and specifying SITES and LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) as applicable rating systems for certification. Governor Raimondo signed the bill into law on Thursday, October 5.

The state has been applying LEED in its newly constructed state-funded facilities since 2010. Starting immediately, Rhode Island and local governments working on new projects that address the space between buildings through public parks or landscapes will also consider applying SITES and LEED ND to sites adjacent to public facilities. LEED and SITES are complementary and can be used independently or in tandem, earning credits that count toward both rating systems. The U.S. General Services Administration has also adopted SITES and has been using the rating system for its capital construction program since 2016.

“Rhode Island is demonstrating that green building strategies should extend beyond just our buildings and into our landscapes and communities,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, U.S. Green Building Council and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). “By encouraging the use of green business certifications like SITES and LEED ND for public projects, they are working to create healthier, more resilient places for residents and businesses.”

Used by landscape architects, engineers, architects and developers, SITES is based on the understanding that land is a crucial part of the built environment. It provides a roadmap for creating regenerative systems that foster resiliency; ensures future resource supply; and enhances human wellbeing. SITES-certified projects are better able to withstand and recover from catastrophic events, such as flooding, and can help reduce water and energy demand, improve air quality and promote human health and wellbeing.

LEED ND incorporates the principles of smart growth, New Urbanism, and green building into a global standard for green neighborhood planning and design. The result is a voluntary leadership standard for neighborhood development that provides criteria to help evaluate and guide development projects in terms of where they’re located, how they’re designed and how they perform.

“Now, more than ever, we need strong environmental leadership,” Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo said. “I am proud that Rhode Island – the Ocean State – is on the front lines of fighting climate change. Through net metering, we're making it easier for homeowners and businesses to invest in clean energy resources. We are the first and still only state in the nation with an offshore wind farm. And, we're partnering with other states to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the region, all while creating new clean energy jobs for our economy. Thanks to this new legislation, we can build on these accomplishments to extend our building sustainability efforts to public lands.”

Building on an eight-year legacy of green public buildings policy, the state’s decision is a signal of its support for a sustainably built environment. Green infrastructure and built landscapes help drive informed decisions in planning and design that strengthen communities, boost resilience and reduce our impacts on natural resources.