Susan Rieff

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the College of Natural Sciences are working toward their goal of landscape sustainability with the use of a new landscape construction rating system that prioritizes the environment.

SITES v2, developed by the Sustainable Sites Initiative, is a collaboration between the center, the United States Botanical Garden and the American Society of Landscape Architects for implementation in building projects that allows engineers, architects and landscapers to work efficiently without sacrificing the sustainability of the environment.

The program is completely voluntary, and so far more than 100 sites across the nation have taken up the initiative, 30 of which have qualified for a rating, including a site at UT Arlington.

“If projects follow and implement SITES v2, these built landscapes create ecologically resilient communities better able to withstand and recover from episodic floods, droughts, wildfires and other catastrophic events,” said Danielle Pieranunzi, Sustainable Sites Initiative program director. “They benefit the environment, property owners, and local and regional communities and economies.”

SITES offers a reference guide, which provides information about environmentally friendly building practices, to project developers who wish to qualify for a SITES rating. The provided guide includes tips on water resources, soil and vegetation, building materials and human health.

SITES consulted technical experts in fields such as hydrology, botany, engineering and landscaping to design the v2 rating system, said Susan Rieff, Wildflower Center executive director.

Modeled after LEED, a rating system used for the construction of environmentally safe buildings, SITES v2 is intended to ensure that landscapes — in places such as natural parks, corporate campuses, residences and waterways — are environmentally sound as well.  This is done by first evaluating the natural ecosystem of a particular site, to check for the presence of local flora and fauna, sources of naturally occurring water and possible soil erosion, Rieff said.

“[After evaluating the site,] you can design, so nature’s working with you and not against you,” Rieff said.

Under the SITES v2 system, projects receive points based on the sustainability and ability to protect and restore ecosystems, Pieranunzi said. If the project reaches the minimum number of points and meets specific prerequisites, SITES will give it a “Certified,” “Silver,” “Gold” or “Platinum” certification based on the number of points received. The Sustainability Sites Initiative is currently negotiating with the Green Building Certification Institute to provide SITES v2 certifications.

Aesthetic form and beauty are no longer the only criteria that are considered in the construction of landscapes, said architecture professor Steven Moore.  Environmental and social conditions have played an increasingly important role for architects and landscape designers in recent years as well, according to Moore.

“SITES v2 is enormously important in helping our ‘building culture’ to transform design and construction practices that do harm to those that might actually contribute to the urban ecosystem,” Moore said in an email.

Graffiti artist "Sode" paints the side of a train car during the second annual Balcones Burner Bash at Balcones Recycling Center on Saturday. Graffiti artists from across Texas competed to raise money for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

[Corrected Oct. 25: Changed Susan Rieff's title]

Balcones Resources supported victims of the recent Bastrop wildfires by hosting a benefit in their honor.

The waste management company invited 12 graffiti artists to its downtown Austin plant on Saturday in order to raise money for the victims of the recent wildfires in Bastrop. The Bastrop Burner Bash raised more than $23,000 by accepting donations and selling food and refreshments. The 12 artists competed for cash prizes by each painting a side of six rail cars owned by Balcones. Another group of artists danced throughout the event to entertain people.

Susan Rieff, executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, said the efforts to support the victims of the wildfires were for a good cause. Rieff also said Kerry Getter, director of Balcones Resources Austin, should be considered one of the key players responsible for making the event happen.


“We are going to use the money to replant trees, replant prairie grasses, and we want to thank everyone for coming out,” Rieff said.

Proceeds from the event will be donated to UT’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which is focused on preserving native plants and natural landscapes. The center will use the money raised by Balcones to restore landscapes in Bastrop County destroyed by the wildfires.

Getter said the recycling plant takes pride in being a part of something to help the victims of the wildfires. Nearing the end of the event, he was invited on stage by Balcones personnel to announce the winners of the rail car contest starting with third place.

Getter said there was a tie for third place because of the high level of creativity from both graffiti artists who tied. He said third place won $1,000, second won $1,500 and the artist known as Saint took first place and $2,500.

Throughout the event, people watched as a group of artists danced. Dancer Sonni Lam said dancing is something he had to find from within his soul. Lam also said he combines a mix of different beats to form his own rhythm which is a mix that comes from his heart.

“I like dancing the most,” Lam said. “It is the quickest form of expression there is. You have 10 seconds to express yourself. It helps you be more open.”

Printed on Monday, October 24, 2011 as: Graffiti competition benefits fire victims