Test case: Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) announced the selection of the Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology as one of the first landscapes to participate in a new program testing the first rating system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance.

The Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology will join more than 150 other projects from 34 states as well as from Canada, Iceland and Spain, as part of an international pilot project program to evaluate the new SITES rating system for sustainable landscapes, with and without buildings. The Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology is one of only three Canadian sites that will be taking part in the pilot project. Sustainable landscapes can clean water, reduce pollution and restore habitats, while providing significant economic and social benefits to land owners and municipalities.

SITES, a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden, selected Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology based on both its existing extensive environmentally friendly elements, as well as its potential to implement and model new sustainable technologies. Sustainable landscape elements already in place at the Centre include: a vegetated roof for storm water management, passive cooling using trees and green walls, a rainwater collection cistern for irrigation, and a biofilter system for sewage and grey water treatment.

Humber’s Centre for Urban Ecology joins the Smithsonian Institution’s African American History & Culture museum – a New Orleans’ project to absorb storm water on the streets of the Lower Ninth Ward flooded during Hurricane Katrina – and other pilot projects, includiing academic and corporate campuses, public parks with hundreds of acres, transportation corridors and private residences of less than one acre.

The Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology was designed by Taylor Hazel Architects and architectsAlliance. The site was developed to provide a first-rate venue for education and research on urban ecology and an up-to-date example of environmental sustainability. Like the other pilot projects, the site will test the point system for achieving different levels of site sustainability on a 250-point scale, and the performance benchmarks associated with specific credits within the Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009. The Centre’s architectural sustainability features include passive solar heat sources, incorporating high performance windows and super-insulation, a high efficiency gas boiler, and environmentally-friendly, and locally sourced building materials.

SITES will use feedback from this and the other selected projects during the pilot phase, which runs through June 2012, to revise the final rating system and reference guide by early 2013. The U.S. Green Building Council, a stakeholder in the Sustainable Sites Initiative, anticipates incorporating the guidelines and performance benchmarks into future iterations of its LEED Green Building Rating System.