Skip to content Skip to navigation

UC Merced to Test Sustainable Landscape Rating System

May 26, 2010

Planned Science and Engineering 2 building will be one of more
than 150 sites in pilot program for the nation’s first rating
system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance

MERCED — The University of California, Merced, will be one
of the first landscapes to participate in the
Sustainable Sites
, taking part in a pilot program to test the nation’s
first rating system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance.

UC Merced will join more than 150 other projects from 34 states
as well as Canada, Iceland and Spain as part of the international
pilot project program, which will evaluate the new rating system
for sustainable landscapes both with and without buildings.

“We are honored to have UC Merced participate in the pilot
program of what is sure to become a valuable resource in
determining the effectiveness of sustainability efforts in
landscaping,” said Thomas Lollini, FAIA, associate vice chancellor
for physical planning, design and construction. “The university has
set new standards for sustainability in building design and
construction and will remain dedicated to preserving our
environmental resources in any way we can.”

Sustainable landscapes can clean water, reduce pollution and
restore habitats, while providing significant economic and social
benefits to land owners and municipalities. For example, shade
provided by landscaping can be used to cool buildings during warmer
months, reducing the amount of energy needed for cooling.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative — founded in 2005 as a
partnership of the
American Society of Landscape
, the
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower
at the University of Texas, Austin, and the
United States Botanic
— selected UC Merced based on its extensive
environmentally friendly elements.

For example, UC Merced is the only university in the country to
have all of its buildings

by the U.S. Green Building Council, and it has
set a minimum standard of LEED Gold or better for all new
buildings. In addition, UC Merced has made the ambitious “Triple
Zero Commitment” to produce as much energy as is used, eliminate
landfill waste and produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions, all
by 2020.

UC Merced will use its planned Science and Engineering 2
building as the template for the pilot project. Like the other
pilot projects, the site will help officials evaluate how practical
and effective a tool the point system is for determining different
levels of site sustainability. The 250-point scale evaluates
landscaping in terms of site selection, water use, soil and
vegetation, choice of materials and other factors in accordance
with the group’s
Guidelines and
Performance Benchmarks 2009

In the pilot program, UC Merced joins landscaping projects like
the Smithsonian Institution’s African American History and Culture
museum and a New Orleans project to absorb storm water on the
streets of the Lower Ninth Ward that were flooded during Hurricane
Katrina. The program also includes corporate campuses, public parks
with hundreds of acres, transportation corridors, and private
residences of less than one acre.

The initiative will use feedback from UC Merced 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.

James Leonard