Building More Sustainably with SITES

L.Arch students examine design plans for the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza

Administered by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) Certification provides developers with a comprehensive rating system to help them design and build more sustainable projects.

Landscape architecture graduate students received hands-on experience with SITES when they participated in an interactive charrette to build sustainability goals for the planned renovation of the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza.

“In addition to being a good opportunity for the students to participate in a sustainability charrette and learn about SITES, working with students is a great opportunity for professionals to connect with students,” explained Adjunct Assistant Professor Samuel Geer (Landscape Architecture).

L.Arch students examine design plans for the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza

Landscape architecture students learn about SITES.

Geer and Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael Keenan (Landscape Architecture) hosted the design charrette and connected the participating students with the project’s lead designer, Jean Garbarini of Damon Farber, as well as with Craig Wilson from Sustology. Garbarini provided background information and walked students through the current design concepts while Wilson provided guidance on the SITES certification process.

“We [students] appreciated the opportunity to see Damon Farber’s working vision for the Convention Center Plaza. The charrette gave us a window into how professional landscape architects consider systems at every step of the design process,” said Anna Jursik (Landscape Architecture). “It was great to take a step back from finals and take a broader look at how our field can provide measurable design solutions to real-world challenges.”

Students work on SITES plan.

Landscape architecture students work on SITES plan.

During the charrette, students and professionals reviewed the format and organization of the SITES program, which gives credits related to onsite water management, soils, plant biomass, and the management of materials and construction waste. “There are also credits related to human wellness, education, and proximity to existing transit and services. We collaboratively built combinations of credits that defined the most sensible path to SITES certification,” explained Geer.

Working with the team assembled, the students helped flesh out sustainable design approaches to paving, planting, and shaping space that would work with the design concepts. “This design charrette was a great opportunity for professionals and students to build familiarity with the SITES program because we were all starting with limited knowledge,” concluded Geer.   

When certified, the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza will be the first SITES certified development in Minnesota.

Landscape architecture students at the design charrette.

Landscape architecture students at the design charrette.

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