This credit promotes biodiversity by encouraging project teams to protect existing onsite native habitat or restore the site with native species.
How you go about earning this credit will depend on the existing conditions of your project site. If you have a greenfield site—one that has not been built, graded, or otherwise altered by human activity—you are required to limit site disturbance during construction.
If your site has been previously developedPreviously developed sites are those altered by paving, construction, and/or land use that would typically have required regulatory permitting to have been initiated (alterations may exist now or in the past). Previously developed land includes a platted lot on which a building was constructed if the lot is no more than 1 acre; previous development on lots larger than 1 acre is defined as the development footprint and land alterations associated with the footprint. Land that is not previously developed and altered landscapes resulting from current or historical clearing or filling, agricultural or forestry use, or preserved natural area use are considered undeveloped land. The date of previous development permit issuance constitutes the date of previous development, but permit issuance in itself does not constitute previous development.", you must protect or restore a portion of the site—50% of the total area minus the building footprintBuilding footprint is the area on a project site used by the building structure, defined by the perimeter of the building plan. Parking lots, parking garages, landscapes, and other nonbuilding facilities are not included in the building footprint., or 20% of the total site area, whichever is greater—and plant with native or adapted species. The protected or restored area can include vegetation, water bodies, soils, or other ecosystems.
It’s easy to confuse the requirements of this credit, SSc5.1, with those of SSc5.2: Site Development—Maximize Open Space. While they both have the stated intent of promoting biodiversity, they’re actually quite different.
This credit focuses on protecting and restoring native habitat or limiting construction disturbances—depending on existing project conditions. Use of native or adapted species in landscaping is a key aspect of this credit.
SSc5.2, on the other hand, is aimed at increasing open space relative to local zoning requirements. It has no requirements for native vegetation—turf grass and even pedestrian-oriented hardscapeHardscape consists of the inanimate elements of the building landscaping. Examples include pavement, roadways, stone walls, concrete paths and sidewalks, and concrete, brick, and tile patios. could apply—and does not put restrictions on construction site disturbance.
If your project is previously developed and earning SSc2: Development Density and Community Connectivity, you are allowed to include a vegetated roof with native or adapted species in your calculations. This clause allows dense urban sites to earn this credit even though they may not have enough exterior site area to qualify otherwise.
In order to comply with SSc5.1, green roofs must provide a diversity of native or adapted species that provide animal habitat. This means that extensive roofs with sedum monocultures won't contribute to this credit, as USGBC spelled out Iin LEED InterpretationLEED Interpretations are official answers to technical inquiries about implementing LEED on a project. They help people understand how their projects can meet LEED requirements and provide clarity on existing options. LEED Interpretations are to be used by any project certifying under an applicable rating system. All project teams are required to adhere to all LEED Interpretations posted before their registration date. This also applies to other addenda. Adherence to rulings posted after a project registers is optional, but strongly encouraged. LEED Interpretations are published in a searchable database at usgbc.org. #10231. Containerized plants are also unlikely to contribute. USGBC is looking for at least six inches of depth of growing medium—in line with an "intensive" green roof—and multiple species that are suited to provide native habitat. The Interpretation gives six species of sedum, on a six-inch growing medium, as an example of an acceptable green roof, as far as contributing to this credit.
Projects with limited landscape opportunities can also use off-site land to earn this credit. They must donate offsite land in perpetuity, equal to 60% of the previously developed area (including the building footprint), to a land trust within the same EPA Level III Ecoregion identified for the project site. The land trust must adhere to the Land Trust Alliance ‘Land Trust Standards and Practices’ 2004 Revision.
If you have a previously developed site, you might have a harder time with this credit if the nature of your project requires you to have a large surface parking area. Previously developed projects that can limit surface parking will have a much easier time.
Protecting native habitat like these plantings in the Rice Creek Open Space area in northern Shoreview, Minnesota, is a key focus of this credit. Photo Courtesy Shoreview, MNAlso on previously developed sites, using non-native landscaping over a significant portion of a site, such as lush greenery in an arid climate, may present difficulties—with this credit as well as with WEc1: Water Efficient Landscaping.
Meeting the requirements for a greenfield site can be challenging due to the limited range of site disturbance permitted under the credit. The limited buffers allowed for site disturbance may make contractors nervous about this credit because of the large turning radius of construction equipment.
Successful construction and development within these strict parameters is not standard practice—it will require careful mapping of the site to identify allowable areas for disturbance, and staking out construction boundaries to clearly communicate them to all teams working onsite. The contractor has such an important role in executing the credit that making credit compliance a contractual obligation is important.
Although still a challenge, the buffer requirements were eased up under a November 2010 LEED addendum. The addendum introduced a new calculation method that could be very useful for teams that are meeting three of the buffer parameters, but having some difficulty with the fourth. See Checklists for more detail.
In order to comply with SSc5.1, green roofs must provide a diversity of native or adapted species that provide animal habitat. This means that extensive roofs with sedum monocultures won't contribute to this credit, as USGBC spelled out Iin LEED Interpretation #10231, issued 10/1/2012.
No. LEED Interpretation #5310 issued 3/4/2008, states that "Although living walls or vertical landscaping may provide limited habitat for certain species adapted to urban areas, the credit language does not currently allow for use of this approach in calculating area compliance." This Interpetation also notes that green walls cannot contribute to SSc5.2.
As recently as version 04, the LEED Online form doesn't mention this option. We recommend that teams document it as an alternative compliance path, by providing a letter on letterhead that includes the EPA Level III Ecoregion, confirms the offsite conservation easement is in compliance with the Land Trust Standards, and notes the size of the designated area.
Common turf grass is not considered native. However, it is possible that a variety of grasses, rather than a monoculture, that are selected with the native habitat in mind and are adpated to the local habitat, can contribute to the credit.
What kind of site do you have?
Projects that are part greenfield and part previously developed need to work out a hybrid plan whereby you follow Case 1 requirements in the greenfield area and Case 2 requirements in the previously developed area. Case 2 requires you to protect a specific percentage of the site. In a hybrid situation, use the area of the previously developed portion of the site, not the total site area, to follow these requirements.
Determine the building footprint and the likely locations of other site features:
Create a site plan with the required buffer areas (see credit language). You may decide to alter the site plan to accommodate the designated boundary of site disturbance. For example, you may find that keeping sidewalks (which have a 10-foot buffer) within the 40-foot buffer of the building when possible will make sidewalk construction easier, because construction vehicles will have more room to maneuver.
Consider the slope of your site. A steeply sloped site may mean that the required minimum buffer areas don’t leave enough room for construction vehicles.
A new "landscape budget method" has been added for this credit through the November 2010 LEED addenda. This method could be very useful for teams that are close to meeting the buffer zone requirement, but having some difficulty. If a project is meeting 3 of 4 requirements but can't meet the fourth, it can do the following calculation to demonstrate compliance. As a baseline calculation, calculate the area of site disturbance that would take place if you met all four of the requirements exactly. Then, calculate the actual area of site disturbance. If the actual amount is less than the baseline, then you meet the requirement. In essence, you are allotted a "budget" of disturbance and you are allowed to overspend in one parameter if you make for it by under-spending in the other three parameters.
The general contractor is responsible for executing the plan for minimal site disturbance and verifying that the credit requirements and site parameters were attained. Incorporate adherence to these requirements in contractual language or in the project specifications and plan, as this credit requires more than standard practice, and you need to be sure contractors fully understand the requirements for credit compliance.
The general contractor may charge an additional fee for meeting the credit requirements, as it requires the general contractor to monitor all site activities more closely than they would on a conventional project.
Adhering to the strict site disturbance parameters is challenging, so the general contractor needs to educate the subcontractors about these requirements and watch for any activities that could potentially fall outside of the limited boundary.
Determine if a registered landscape architect will be involved in the project. If so, you can document this credit through the LPE streamlined path, in which the landscape architect signs off on the whole credit. Doing so requires much less documentation.
Calculate the rough site area that you’ll need to restore. Is 50% of your site (minus building footprint) or 20% of the total site (including building footprint) larger? Whichever is larger, you will need to restore an area of that size. Will this be feasible under the rough design? If you have a small site with a large building footprint, you may not be able to achieve the requirement.
Discuss with the landscape architect the possibility of including native or adapted species on the required area of the site.
Minimize site hardscape and surface parking. This generally opens up more area for the restoration of green space, which can be used as an amenity or for natural stormwater management (helping with SSc6.1 and SSc6.2).
You can also protect or restore water bodies, soils, and other ecosystems to meet the credit requirements. Doing so may require the help of a biologist or ecologist, whereas protecting or restoring vegetation may only require a landscape architect. ”Other ecosystems” is a fairly open-ended term, and a project that tries to protect or restore something outside of the defined list will be approved or denied based on your ability to justify it to the LEED reviewer on a project-by-project basis.
Walk the site with a biologist, ecologist, or landscape architect to determine whether you have invasive or non-native species (which would need to be removed), and to assess whether the land and water bodies need work to support native habitat. During this walk, note any native or adapted species that you can protect for credit compliance.
Determine whether you will restore or protect portions of your site. You may find that it takes a combination of the two to meet the area requirements.
Adapted plants are non-invasive species that, once established, can survive in the local climate and ecosystem without the assistance of irrigation and fertilizers.
Turf grass is an example of a monoculture species that is not compliant with the requirements of this credit. Monoculture plantings are essentially the opposite of a biologically diverse landscape, where only one species is planted over an extensive area.
Restoring or protecting portions of a site is a relatively low-cost option to pursue, and compliance with these requirements contributes to the achievement of other LEED credits such as:
For urban sites with limited landscape opportunities, you have two options:
Your LEED site boundary needs to be consistent across all LEED credits.
Unless following the "budget method" discussed above, check to make sure that the building footprint will allow the construction team to stay within the site disturbance parameters set forth in the credit language. You need to limit site disturbance to:
Which is greater?
Will your project earn SSc2: Development Density and Community Connectivity? If so, you can include in your calculations the area of a green roof that contains native or adapted non-monoculture species.
Depending on the landscape choice of your green roof, you might find it difficult to meet this credit without an intensive roof. Some sedum selections could be considered monoculture and not able to support biodiversity. Discuss this with your landscape architect or green roof designer. Also, see the LEEDuser strategy on green roofs for more details.
If you have a zero-lot-line or dense urban site, carefully consider whether attempting the credit is realistic. Many such sites don’t have enough site area. To create more area, consider stacking the building footprint, incorporating a green roof, or minimizing parking (which would also contribute to SSc4.4: Alternative Transportation—Parking Capacity). You can also donate off-site land to earn the credit (see below).
The preserved area can become a special space in the site design—an amenity for occupants and the neighborhood, and a connection to native habitat.
The landscape architect should begin researching native and adapted species for your region. Most cities have local gardens, conservancies, universities or regional organizations that provide a list of native and adapted species. For example, FloridaYards.org is a collaborative effort to provide listings of Florida-friendly and native plant species.
Purchasing native or adapted species is typically less expensive than buying non-native, imported, or tropical species that must be transported in. In some states, plants are available through state nurseries or university extensions at low prices.
Depending on the extent and types of invasive species, the removal of non-native and aggressive species could be costly. If your invasive species need eradication, monitoring, and constant control, you could be looking at an expensive investment. However, removing those plants will improve the local ecosystem and possibly avoid irreversible damage to your land and greater community. See the Resources section for more details.
Native and adapted species typically require less watering and maintenance, saving operational costs as well as the cost of installing irrigation equipment.
Create a site plan that delineates the development boundaries. You have the option to provide the site map to document LEED credit compliance, or your contractor can sign the LEED Online credit form saying that the credit requirements were met. Either way, you will want to create a site map with clearly defined limits of site disturbance.
The site plan with a clearly defined boundary for minimized site disturbance should include the installation of fencing or other barriers to the non-disturbance area.
Consider what needs the contractor may have for staging areas and site access. You may want to provide dedicated areas for delivery and storage of building materials. Consulting with a contractor at this early stage can make it easier to achieve the credit.
Create a site plan that delineates the areas of native or adapted species and ecologically appropriate site features, and develop a list of all native and adapted species on the project site.
Verify that your project meets the required percentages of restored or protected vegetation according to the calculations outlined above in the Schematic Design section.
If you plan on counting a green roof in your calculations, verify that you will earn SSc2: Development Density and Community Connectivity.
If your project does not have a landscape architect, the project architect (or other qualified person) should document credit compliance. However, projects with a registered landscape architect can pursue this credit through the Licensed Professional Exemption (LPE) route. In this case, you do not need to provide a list of all native and adapted species on the site.
To support the survival of your native and adapted plants without the use of permanent irrigation, landscape with the natural contours of the land to make good use of rainwater and natural site hydrology.
Before construction activities begin, the general contractor should educate contractors and subcontractors on the project goals for limited site disturbance and detail a plan for meeting these requirements.
Incorporate carefully defined staging areas for construction activities and contained construction entrances to minimize damage to the protected greenfield area.
Incorporate physical markers around the site areas that are not to be disturbed. Use signs as well as flags, silt fencing, and hay bales.
Consider instituting an incentive policy for contractors and subcontractors to encourage compliance.
Regularly remind contractors and subcontractors of the limited site disturbance plan. Orient new contractors as they come to the project during later stages of construction.
Implement plans for construction staging areas, physical barriers, and regular meetings to ensure continued compliance with site disturbance requirements.
Contain all construction activities away from site disturbance boundaries to minimize damage to natural areas.
Monitor the site for compliance with the limited site disturbance requirements.
Upload documentation to LEED Online after construction activities have ended. You have two documentation options:
Taking date-stamped pictures of the protected areas at designated times throughout the project helps ensure compliance and provides supporting documentation if there are any questions about your project’s compliance.
Upload documentation to LEED Online after construction activities have ended.
Provide the total site area restored or protected, total site area (including the building footprint), the building footprint, a site plan showing all natural areas contributing to credit compliance and, if you are providing full documentation (not attempting the streamlined LPE path), a list of the native and adapted vegetation that contributes to credit compliance. If you are providing documentation through the streamlined LPE path, a Registered Landscape Architect needs to sign off stating that the requirements for native or adapted plantings have been achieved.
Work with the management team to ensure that continued protection protocols are put in place for the buffered areas, to help preserve them and the natural areas beyond.
Installing signage to educate users about the value of protected land helps ensure that natural areas remain respected and protected.
You may need to set up a temporary irrigation system for a vegetation establishment period of up to one year (going beyond one year would conflict with the intent of this credit, and WEc1: Water Efficient Landscaping). The system should be designed for easy removal.
Excerpted from LEED 2009 for Schools New Construction and Major Renovations
To conserve existing natural areas and restore damaged areas to provide habitat and promote biodiversity.
Limit all site disturbance to the following parameters:
Restore or protect a minimum of 50% of the site (excluding the building footprintBuilding footprint is the area on a project site used by the building structure, defined by the perimeter of the building plan. Parking lots, parking garages, landscapes, and other nonbuilding facilities are not included in the building footprint.) or 20% of the total site area (including building footprint), whichever is greater, with native or adapted vegetationAdapted (or introduced) plants reliably grow well in a given habitat with minimal winter protection, pest control, fertilization, or irrigation once their root systems are established. Adapted plants are considered low maintenance and not invasive..3 Projects earning SS Credit 2: Development Density and Community Connectivity may include vegetated roof surface in this calculation if the plants are native or adapted, provide habitat, and promote biodiversity.
Projects with limited landscape opportunities may also donate offsiteland in perpetuity, equal to 60% of the previously developed area (including the building footprint), to a land trust within the same EPA Level III Ecoregion identified for the project site. The land trust mustadhere to the Land Trust Alliance 'Land Trust Standards andPractices' 2004 Revision.
1 Greenfield sites are sites not previously developed or graded that could support open space, habitat, or agriculture..
2 Native or adapted plants are plants indigenous to a locality or cultivars of native plants that are adapted to the local climate and are not considered invasive species or noxious weeds.
Survey greenfield sites, to identify site elements and adopt a master plan for developing the project site. Carefully site the building to minimize disruption to existing ecosystems and design the building to minimize its footprint. Strategies include stacking the building program, tuck-under parking and sharing parking facilities with neighbors. Establish clearly marked construction boundaries to minimize disturbance of the existing site and restore previously degraded areas to their natural state. For previously developedPreviously developed sites are those altered by paving, construction, and/or land use that would typically have required regulatory permitting to have been initiated (alterations may exist now or in the past). Previously developed land includes a platted lot on which a building was constructed if the lot is no more than 1 acre; previous development on lots larger than 1 acre is defined as the development footprint and land alterations associated with the footprint. Land that is not previously developed and altered landscapes resulting from current or historical clearing or filling, agricultural or forestry use, or preserved natural area use are considered undeveloped land. The date of previous development permit issuance constitutes the date of previous development, but permit issuance in itself does not constitute previous development." sites, use local and regional governmental agencies, consultants, educational facilities and native plant societies as resources for the selection of appropriate native or adapted plant. Prohibits plant listed as invasive or noxious weed species. Once established native/adapted plants require minimal or no irrigation do not require active maintenance such as mowing or chemical inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, and provide habitat value and promote biodiversity through avoidance of monoculture plantings.
1. Greenfield sites are those that are not previously developed or graded and remain in a natural state.
2. Previously developed sites are those that previously contained buildings, roadways, parking lots or were graded or altered by direct human activities.
3. Native or adapted plants are plants indigenous to a locality or cultivars of native plants that are adapted to the local climate and are not considered invasive species or noxious weeds.
This website provides links to local information on invasive species, provides an overview of the problem and regulations associated with invasive species, and provides information on grants and funding opportunities.
This quarterly print and online publication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum provides a forum for people interested in all aspects of ecological restorationEcological restoration is the process of assisting in the recovery and management of ecological integrity and includes biodiversity, ecological processes and structures, regional and historical context, and sustainable cultural practices..
This website can help locate land trusts that may help a project with the offsite restoration option within this credit.
NANPS is a nonprofit association dedicated to the study, conservation, cultivation, and restoration of native plants. Its website contains links to state and local associations.
The mission of this nonprofit consortium of scientists, planners, administrators, ecological consultants, landscape architects, engineers, and others is to promote ecological restorationEcological restoration is the process of assisting in the recovery and management of ecological integrity and includes biodiversity, ecological processes and structures, regional and historical context, and sustainable cultural practices. as a means of sustaining the diversity of life and to reestablish an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.
This organization focuses on fostering the science and art of sustainable soil, water, and related natural resource management.
The Nature Conservancy is a conservation organization that works to protect ecologically important lands and water.
The center, located in Austin, Texas, has the mission of educating people about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants. The website offers a number of resources, including a nationwide native plant information network and a national suppliers directory.
If your greenfield project documents this credit through the use of a site plan you will need to provide a document similar to this example.
If your previously developedPreviously developed sites are those altered by paving, construction, and/or land use that would typically have required regulatory permitting to have been initiated (alterations may exist now or in the past). Previously developed land includes a platted lot on which a building was constructed if the lot is no more than 1 acre; previous development on lots larger than 1 acre is defined as the development footprint and land alterations associated with the footprint. Land that is not previously developed and altered landscapes resulting from current or historical clearing or filling, agricultural or forestry use, or preserved natural area use are considered undeveloped land. The date of previous development permit issuance constitutes the date of previous development, but permit issuance in itself does not constitute previous development." site project documents this credit through the use of a site plan you will need to provide a document similar to this example.
The following links take you to the public, informational versions of the dynamic LEED Online forms for each Schools-2009 SS credit. You'll need to fill out the live versions of these forms on LEED Online for each credit you hope to earn.
Version 4 forms (newest):
Version 3 forms:
These links are posted by LEEDuser with USGBC's permission. For more information, visit LEED Online and click "Sample Forms Download."
Documentation for this credit is part of the Construction Phase submittal.
I have a Project that is considering “Hydroseeding” as a permanent landscape design. The method is described as:
“ Hydroseeding in its simplest form is the application of seed by hydraulic process, in other words to apply seed with water as the means of spreading it. However, most hydroseeding applications use a mulch carrier which provides uniform mixing of the seed with the water, and provides other benefits once on the ground.
The mulch carrier can be composed of wood, paper, straw, coconut, synthetic, peatmoss, compost fibres or many different combinations of these.
These fibres are often dyed a green color to offer the hydroseeding applicator the advantage of a color contrast to the ground when spraying, this insures a uniform and even application of the product and seed. Often natural glues or tackifiers are added to the mix to provide better bonding between the soil particles and the mulch fibres, allowing the mulch layer to remain in place during wind and rain events.
The main advantage of hydroseeding over conventional seeding applications if the addition of a mulch layer to the soil. This mulch layer will act to provide protection from birds eating the newly applied seeds, wind from blowing the seed and soil away, retain moisture, and reduce the impact of splash erosion from rain drops and watering which can cause soil crusting, which inhibits plant growth.”
I understand that Hydroseeding can contribute to avoid erosion, but my question is – If we can use it as a permanent landscape design, even if it considers color and glue. Many information sources, describes the method as a lower water consumption.
Can we use this method without any troubles with the credit?
Jose, I would describe hydroseeding as a method for establishing a planted area (typically turf grass). This planting method itself does not define a permanent landscape design, so I would not rely on it for achieving low water use or native planting for credit compliance, etc.
Sincere Apologies for reposting the question but anyone out there could assist.Thank you!!
If the Master plan level School project's (Multiple buildings within the development) site boundary will be enclosed by the 3 meter Wall (Location is in Middle East and no surrounding developments) please advise,
1. How shall I identify the Limit of site disturbance (40/25/15/10 feet?)
2. The surface parking will have the Solar PV panels as the Shading roof so do I have to treat them as parking garage and limit the site disturbance to 40 feet?
3. Enabling works temporary offices (Outside the building perimeter), shall I include or exclude them while defining the site disturbance boundary?
Ameet, I'll try to answer your questions.
1) Are you asking which distance applies to the wall itself? What kind of wall is it?
2) I think a case could be made for this to be either 40 or 10 feet. I'd suggest going with 10, calling the solar panels "small utilities."
3) This could be argued either way, but I would ideally not count these as buildings when defining the boundary.
When using the protecting 50% of the site to meet this requirement. What is the definition of "protect". Does this mean placing in a land conservation easement or other legal means of holding the property for conservation? Are there other methods that can work for this purpose?
For this credit, “protect” requires ensuring the site's adaptive/native species are undisturbed by the project’s development, and that the project commits to protecting the designated area. This is reinforced by implementing specific practices (particularly during construction) to limit harm to the native or adaptive species on your project site, and committing to preserving the area as it is. During construction, this should include incorporating specific practices and requirements into construction documents such as specifying areas for lay-down, recycling and disposal, using paved areas for staging of construction activities, as well as using fencing around existing vegetation. Also, include specifics on areas for construction entrances and setbacks. It's a good idea to incorporate regular monitoring and inspections of the construction site to ensure these requirements are being implemented and followed. There is not mention of requiring a land trust or any legal action to meet the credit.
Institute for the Built Environment
Greenfield projects attempting SSc5.1 should consider integrating those requirements with requirements from SSp1.
If your project earns SSc2, you can count the vegetated area of a green roof toward SSc5.1 credit compliance.
When protecting or restoring your site for SSc5.1 consider including enough open space to also earn SSc5.2. While SSc5.1 requires native or adapted vegetation, however, SSc5.2 does not.
Natural habitat with few impervious surfaces will encourage natural infiltration, reducing stormwater runoff quantity.
Natural infiltration of stormwater into natural habitat will help improve stormwater quality.
Minimizing the building footprint through the use of stacked parking achieve SSc5.1 and SSc7.1.
A vegetated roof will contribute to SSc5.1, if your project also earns SSc2.
Projects attempting SSc9 have the option of documenting their site master plan with SSc5.1. This is a great option for teams and is relatively easy to document.
Projects installing native and adapted species for SSc5.1 will also help with WEc1 due to limited need for irrigation.
It would be easy to incorporate native, adaptive, and invasive species education into the school as a teaching tool curriculum through a science class.
Do you know which LEED credits have the most LEED Interpretations and addenda, and which have none? The Missing Manual does. Check here first to see where you need to update yourself, and share the link with your team.
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