Sustainability at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

July 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm 3 comments

The Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), broke ground just a couple months ago and is progressing quickly towards its goal of opening its doors in 2015. The museum plans to become LEED-certified which is a rating system that helps identify and implement measurable green building design. The museum is right on track with its building requirements. Though LEED certification has become more and more common, there still is a distinct missing piece in the true sustainability of a building through the LEED certification system, however. Experts have determined that for a building to be truly sustainable, the rating system needs to consider its surrounding landscape.

NMAAHC Construction Site

NMAAHC Construction Site

In order to address this problem, 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 partnered together in 2005 to come up with a solution to this missing component in LEED certification. These organizations collaborated with experts to address site design issues relating to soil, hydrology, vegetation, material selection, and human health and well-being to develop their own sustainable rating system on sites alone. This rating system is known as the Sustainable Sites Initiative or SITES for short.

SITES is a distinct and different rating system from LEED. SITES, like LEED, fosters the conservation of resources by promoting things like using recycled materials or solar energy, but it takes it to another level by going beyond the building’s exterior and rebuilding critical ecological capacity on sites. Sustainable buildings can only be truly ‘sustainable’ with healthy built landscapes. For example, a building using water captured on site or vegetation to reduce heating and cooling requirements can only happen with a built landscape design integrated into the building’s design.

NMAAHC will set out to secure both LEED building and SITES certifications. This is very exciting as currently there are only three SITES-certified projects in the U.S. If NMAAHC makes the cut it will set an example as an important landmark for site design across the nation by following the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

Liz Carroll, Landscape Architecture Intern

Entry filed under: Horticulture, Landscape Architecture. Tags: .

Appropriating the Garden Bluebook: The 1929 Blueprint for a July “Blue” Garden The Doctor Is In: Physic Gardens

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. smithsoniangardens  |  August 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Thank you for your comment and sharing the story with our readers. Smithsonian Gardens has been actively involved in shaping the landscape at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The landscape elements will tell stories which we will share on our blog when the museum is completed.

  • 2. buffalosoldier9  |  August 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Keep history alive by telling that history:

    Read the greatest ‘historical novel’, Rescue at Pine Ridge, the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers. The website is: This is the greatest story of Black Military History…5 stars Amazon Internationally, and Barnes & Noble. Youtube commercials are: and

    Rescue at Pine Ridge is the story of the rescue of the famed 7th Cavalry by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. The 7th Cavalry was entrapped again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn’t for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. This story is about, brutality, compassion, reprisal, bravery, heroism, redemption and gallantry.

    You’ll enjoy the novel that embodies the Native Americans, Outlaws and African-American/Black soldiers, from the south to the north, in the days of the Native American Wars with the approaching United States of America.

    The novel was taken from my mini-series movie with the same title, “RaPR” to keep the story alive. The movie so far has the interest of, Mr. Bill Duke, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman, James Whitmore Jr., Reginald T. Dorsey and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with, in starring in this epic American story.

    When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for the US Postal System in Montana, in the 1890’s, “spread the word”.


  • 3. Greg Allegretti  |  August 4, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    I think we’re going to be seeing SITES certifications for many more projects in the very near future. In the long run, it would not be surprising to see an integration of the SITES and LEED certification process.


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