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Chapter Two
The issue is not whether we will have development but rather what that development
will be. What construction methods will we employ? What materials will we use? How
will the form of our designs reflect the more thoughtful and less harmful function of our
projects? The impacts and issues discussed in Chap. 1 suggest that a move toward sustainable development is not only desirable but quite necessary. A plan that is concerned
with sustainability cannot consider the building and the site as separate elements because
they interact in important ways. This interaction is the concern of this chapter.

Sustainable Development Principles

Our cultural context for sustainability is in its infancy, but the dialogue is well under
way. Important voices are encouraging us not to go back but forward, and to solve
problems through design. Although no single set of guidelines has emerged, there is a
growing recognition of the principles that lead to sustainable design and development.
The groundwork for sustainable design was established by Christopher Alexander and
Ian McHarg as early as the 1970s. Today the views of leaders such as William McDonough
and Emory Lovins are moving into boardrooms and legislatures and are beginning to
change the expectations of design professionals.
This discussion of principles will necessarily be incomplete because so many efforts
are occurring on so many fronts that it is impossible to capture the full range of subjects
completely. The Sustainable Sites Initiative, a partnership led by the American Society of
Landscape Architects, the United States Botanical Garden, and the Lady Bird Johnson
Wildflower Center, is collaborating to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction, and maintenance practices.
The initiative is a dynamic undertaking with the objective of producing a series of reports
to serve the practitioner and the concerned public. Among the first of its products is the
Guidelines and Principles of Sustainable Sites. Produced in draft form in 2008, this
report provides an excellent overview and specific assessments of what should be considered first principles for site designers. The draft includes numerous case studies, summarizes measurement and analytical tools, and makes the argument for sustainable sites
from a number of perspectives. These first principles are summarized in Table 2.1.
The definitions of sustainable development are too numerous to count, and the
phrase is in danger of becoming another meaningless mantra. But design professionals
need to recognize the intellectual and professional challenge of finding a workable balance with nature. This is an important time for design professionals, and architects have
made important advances in green buildings, although the practices are not main
stream yet. Guidelines for sustainable site development practices are listed in Table 2.2,
but most examples of their use are notable because they are still unusual. We must
move to a marketplace of ideas and practices that make these examples unremarkable.
Sustainable site planning must include considerations of the impact of development
on the local ecosystem, the global ecosystem, and the future. Principles of green site
work encourage the designer to consider the nature of the building materials, the flows
of energy, and materials required for the life of the project. The designer should consider
the life cycle costs of the materials being used, the ultimate disposition of the site and the
materials, and ways in which these environmental impacts can be reduced or mitigated.
The longer the useful life of a building or a site the longer the environment has to
amortize the impacts, but designing a site with an extended life span requires the
designer to consider future uses and changes and to incorporate that thinking into the