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Sustainable Sites: Primers from Environmental Building News

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It’s not just about the building! The site and its landscaping and infrastructure is a key part of a building’s overall environmental performance. The following primers from the pages of Environmental Building News explore five strategies for sustainable sites.

Invasive Plants: Taken out of their native ecosystems and away from natural predators and other limiting factors, some plant species multiply excessively, taking over and damaging an ecosystem. Even “sterile” cultivars of these species may not be trusted.

Permaculture for Urban Design: Permaculture focuses on the interrelation and placement of plants, animals, buildings, and infrastructure in the landscape, emphasizing food production while working to conserve energy and resources. Using “zones” to differentiate land uses, permaculture tries to emulate ecosystem functions on a site.

Constructed Wetlands: By filtering wastewater through a system of aggregate and plant roots, constructed wetlands do what conventional septic systems cannot: remove nitrogen and phosphorous. They may also allow project teams to downsize drainfields. Like all landscapes, constructed wetlands require maintenance.

Porous Paving: By stopping stormwater from pooling and flowing away, porous paving can help recharge underlying aquifers and reduces peak flows and flooding. This, in turn, helps filter pollutants, keep streams flowing at a constant rate, support healthy trees, and limit the urban heat island effect.

Graywater Collection and Use: Graywater can be collected using separate drainage pipes, then filtered and temporarily stored before being distributed in subsurface outdoor irrigation. Using it this way is illegal in many places, but has many environmental benefits, most notably water conservation.

Continuing Education

Receive continuing education credit for reading these primers. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has approved this course for 1 HSW/SD Learning Unit. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) has approved the technical and instructional quality of this course for 1 GBCI CE hour towards the LEED Credential Maintenance Program.

Learning Objectives

Upon completing this course, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe how invasive plants can harm an ecosystem, and why native plants are generally less work and less expensive.
  2. Explain the major principles behind permaculture, and how they promote healthy urban ecosystems.
  3. Describe the construction, use, and benefits of constructed wetlands.
  4. Describe at least three types of porous paving, and explain the benefits of its use.
  5. Explain how graywater can be collected and used, and describe the benefits of doing so.

To earn continuing education credit, read these primers, then make sure you're logged into your personal BuildingGreen account, and pass this quiz. Please note: In order to complete the quiz portion of this continuing education course, you must click on the titles and read all the primers in full (not just the summaries shown here).

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July 13, 2010