Rhode Island launches first SITES pilot project to manage Pastore Complex flooding challenges
In 2017, the Green Infrastructure Coalition’s top legislative priority was passage of amendments to the Green Buildings Act to include high performance green landscape standards for the property surrounding public buildings. The 2017 amendment added new metrics, LEED for Neighborhood Development and SITES, to the existing green building standards. These new standards are landscape strategies for reducing water demand, treating storm, water runoff, enhancing wildlife habitat, reducing energy consumption, increasing outdoor recreation opportunities, and sequestering carbon for buildings, properties, surrounding
neighborhoods, and their communities. The state agreed to use the new standards for up to four pilot projects with public buildings.
(Photo: Lisa Lawless at the Pastore Center)

“SITES is going to be the right process for figuring out what to do here,” says Lisa Lawless, Project Manager for the State’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM). The US Green Building Council will provide technical assistance to, the state and engineers contracted to design the project to lead them through a SITES evaluation to develop the best options for the property."
Lawless adds, “As the climate is changing, the problems we could manage before are now becoming more acute. With more intense rain and heat, the extended summer season and higher humidity are overwhelming the older HVAC systems.These are not problems that we had here 20 years ago.”

This pilot project will capture the lessons learned from this approach to address the emerging challenges for property managers looking for cost effective strategies to
deal with our changing climate.

According to a 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study by the U.S. Green Building Council and Booz Allen Hamilton, from 2015-2018, green construction in Rhode Island will account for $2.14 billion in state GDP and support approximately 25,000 jobs.
Green construction in buildings and landscapes is efficient and economical. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that sustainable landscape projects save 15% to 80% of the initial project capital costs compared to traditional site infrastructure. SITES will save the State even more money in operations and maintenance costs over the life cycle of a project. The United States General Services Administration (GSA) has adopted SITES stating that it "allows land-based projects to better protect ecosystems and enhance the mosaic of benefits they continuously provide our communities, such as climate regulation, carbon storage and flood mitigation."

Implementation of the 2017 Amendments

The Green Buildings Act is administered by the Rhode Island Department of Administration (DOA) and is further supported by the Green Buildings Advisory Committee (GBAC).

The Green Infrastructure Coalition is a project of the Environment Council of Rhode Island. We are made up of over forty organizations from around the state that work on projects to create nature based solutions for stormwater issues facing Rhode Island. Our projects and programs are geared towards educating the community on what is being done to address polluted runoff and flooding across the state. Our goal is to advocate for and help create new projects by using natural green infrastructure in Rhode Island.
Sheila Dormody is the Providence Metro Program Manager for the Nature Conservancy.
RI-GIC Website