Rios Clementi Hale Studios’ renovation and reimagining of the landscape for the Pete V. Domenici United States Courthouse in Albuquerque, N.M., has been selected as a representative project for an international pilot program by the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). According to SITES, its new points-based metrics for sustainable landscapes is the nation’s first rating system for green landscape design, construction, and maintenance.

Rios Clementi Hale Studios is currently in the conceptual design phase of the project, commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), as part of the agency’s First Impressions program. In 2005, Rios Clementi Hale Studios was selected as one of only two firms nationwide for First Impressions, conceived to extend the GSA’s commitment to design excellence in public spaces. 

“We are honored to be among the landscape design firms involved in the SITES program,” said Samantha Harris, ASLA, LEED-AP, senior associate, Rios Clementi Hale Studios. “It is exciting to contribute ideas and help develop best practices for a system that will conserve energy, enhance biodiversity, and promote environmental sustainability for years to come.”

The Pete V. Domenici United States Courthouse Sustainable Landscape Renovation will restore native habit, conserve water, and re-introduce a welcoming park-like environment to the 4.5-acre downtown Albuquerque site. Sustainable elements to be implemented include planting drought-tolerant xeriscape to replace Kentucky Bluegrass lawns and non-native plants, removing and re-using excessive hardscape, installing a rainwater collection and re-use system, and employing photovoltaics to supply the site’s energy needs. The program, which is adapted to the climate and hydrology of New Mexico’s Rio Grande basin, will also improve access to an historic sculpture on the grounds.

SITES is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden. It was created to promote sustainable land development and management practices applicable to sites both with and without buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a stakeholder in the Initiative, envisions incorporating SITES’ guidelines and performance benchmarks into future iterations of the LEED Green Building Rating System.

The Pete V. Domenici United States Courthouse Sustainable Landscape Renovation is one of 175 international SITES pilot projects. Each project will test SITES’ system for achieving different levels of site sustainability on a 250-point scale, and with performance credits detailed within the Initiative’s Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009. Ecological, economic, and cultural sustainability are taken into account.

Rios Clementi Hale Studios encompasses myriad talents in one firm. Established in 1985, this extraordinary practice has developed an international reputation for its collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach, establishing an award-winning tradition across an unprecedented range of design disciplines. The architecture, landscape architecture, planning, urban, interior, exhibit, graphic, and product designers at Rios Clementi Hale Studios create buildings, places, and products that are thoughtful, effective, and beautiful.