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UTEP’s Campus Transformation Project Honored for Achievement in Landscape Sustainability

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) announced Monday that the University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP) Campus Transformation Project was awarded Silver certification under the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) rating system, and is the first project to certify under SITES v2.

Owned and administered by GBCI, SITES is the most comprehensive program for sustainable land development and aligns land development and management with innovative design.

The SITES redesign on UTEP’s campus converted parking lots and unusable sloped landscapes into an 11.57-acre community landscape and meeting space in the center of campus.

The core of the project is Centennial Plaza and Centennial Green, which include richly detailed outdoor gathering spaces that feature a performance lawn and a 130-seat amphitheater, desert gardens, vegetated bioswales that mimic natural arroyos, walking paths and a diverse array of trees, shrubs and perennial plants native to the Chihuahuan desert.

The green infrastructure and landscape design techniques also increased the vegetative area of the site by 60 percent. The project, which was rated on a number of areas including site design, construction, operations and maintenance, received the maximum amount of points for innovation.

“UTEP’s certification of a sustainable gathering space represents tremendous leadership in landscape design and development,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president, GBCI, and chief operating officer, U.S. Green Building Council.

Ramanujam continued, “The Campus Transformation Project is one of the first and largest green infrastructure projects in the El Paso region, and will benefit UTEP students, faculty and the surrounding region for years to come. We know that a sustainable built environment extends beyond the four walls of a building and through the use of SITES, projects like this are creating ecologically resilient communities, reducing water demand, improving air quality and human health by connecting people to nature.”

He added, “As the first certified project under the second version of the SITES rating system, UTEP and the entire project team who worked on this certification are true leaders in campus transformation and sustainable landscape design. Just as LEED undeniably transformed the built environment, SITES has the power to transform land development and use, and projects like this will play a critical role.”

The SITES rating system provides a metrics-based approach to important concepts like ecosystem services and green infrastructure so that developers and owners can make informed decisions about their land use.

Used by landscape architects, engineers, architects, developers and policy makers, SITES creates regenerative systems and fosters resiliency; ensures future resource supply and mitigates climate change; transforms the market through design, development and maintenance practices; and enhances human wellbeing and strengthens the community.

“The benefits of the Campus Transformation project go beyond sustainable landscapes,” said Greg McNicol, associate vice president for business affairs – facilities management, UTEP. “Research shows that landscapes can provide mental health, cognitive function and stress reduction benefits, which is especially important in a collegiate setting. Through the Campus Transformation project, we hope to not only strengthen our sustainability priorities but create a community gathering space for our students and faculty.”

SITES was developed through a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort 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.

The rating system can be applied to development projects located on sites with or without buildings and draws on the experience gained from a two-year pilot program involving more than 100 projects.

Forty-six of these pilot projects have achieved certification, including landscape projects at corporate headquarters, national and city parks, academic campuses and private homes.

The project team for the Campus Transformation Project includes: Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc. (Prime Consultant, Landscape Architect); Quantum Engineering Consultants (Civil Engineer); AEC (Structural Engineer); EEA (MEP Engineer); Lake|Flato Architects (Architect); Aqua Irrigation (Irrigation Designer); RLB (Cost Control Consultant); Altura Solutions (Accessibility Consultant); Biohabitats (Ecological Engineer); Regenerative Environmental Design (Sustainability Consultant); Yarnell & Assoc. (Lighting Designer); LAS (Local Site Reviewer); CF Jordan (General Contractor).

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