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Sustainability and the

Green Site

he site exists as part of a larger landscape and ecosystem, and sustainable site
design must include broad considerations of the environmental role of the site as
well as the program or intention of the project. Sustainable design must recognize
and retain as many of the functional elements of a site as possible but also consider the
relationships between the site under consideration and the community at large.
Change tends to come slowly to the land development process, but it does come
eventually. In 2008 California became the first state to pass a statewide building code
requiring water and energy conservation. A number of large cities have passed ordinances requiring green roofs, and more than 280 local governments in the United States
have committed to energy conservation and greenhouse gas reductions. States are committing to green development policies for public construction, and some are offering
incentives to the private sector to do the same. Many communities are requiring greener
development, better street design, and more sensible use of resources and capital. These
development trends embrace a sustainable environment and a robust economy, which
are not mutually exclusive concepts as they are often portrayed today. Sustainability is
not and cannot be antidevelopment; instead, it is the basis for thoughtful, intelligent,
and rational development.
Change brings many challenges. As we begin to think about sustainability and land
development, it is important to note the contribution land development and construction make to our economic well-being. Nationwide about 5.5 percent of the workforce
is directly employed by the construction industry, approximately 7.7 million jobs in
2005. Residential and commercial construction typically represents about 10 percent of
the gross domestic product of the United States. After mortgage debt is removed, the
net value of developed real estate in the United States is about $11 trillion. This does not
include the value of roads or other civic infrastructure. Real estate represents the largest
source of personnel wealth and savings for most Americans. Construction and development represent important economic activities. With the growth in population we can
expect demand for more development: more homes and more commercial space. Studies
by Woods Hole Research Center (2007) and the University of Ohio (Irwin and Bockstael,
2007) suggest that in parts of the United States development could increase by as much
as 60 percent by 2030. In this same time frame, much of the infrastructure and most of
the buildings in the United States will reach the end of their initial design life. Retrofitting and updating the existing pre-green built environment represents its own challenges and opportunities.