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It's easy being green

A garden space that flanks Cornell's Mann Library entrance is more than just a pretty place: It's one of only 11 landscapes in the country to be certified by the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a new "green" certification system for landscapes.

SITES is the nation's most comprehensive rating system for the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of built landscapes. Nearing the end of its pilot project phase to refine its guidelines and performance benchmarks, SITES complements -- and is affiliated with -- the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for environmentally friendly buildings.

The Mann Library 5,000-square-foot entrance garden was site-assessed, designed and built by students in the 2009-10 in Creating the Urban Eden, a yearlong course co-taught by Nina Bassuk, professor of horticulture, and Peter Trowbridge, professor of landscape architecture. Each year, the class constructs a new landscape on campus. The students also documented the process and helped prepare the SITES certification application. The space had been a construction site with poor, heavily compacted soil prior to the garden's creation.

The garden's sustainable features include healthy soil remediated with Cornell-made compost for better percolation, nutrients and microorganisms; a design that will have a closed canopy in two to three years so plants mesh and block out weeds; removal of invasive species; site-appropriate, pest-resistant plants; the preservation of two trees; and benches.

Read the full story in the Cornell Chronicle.