Leveraging Landscape for Human Health: Retooling the SITES Rating System to Promote Built Landscapes as Health Assets
Van Meter, Kevin
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Our health is sustained, in part, by the built landscapes in which we live our lives. These landscapes—from bus stops to national park systems—influence human health by enabling some activities and discouraging others, by inviting some users while excluding others, and by supporting, or antagonizing, our physiological and mental processes. By designing, constructing, and managing built landscapes with the consideration that they are health assets, we can better enlist their full potential in our efforts to combat health crises and promote well being. The Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES), North America’s only widely available sustainability rating system for built landscapes, is uniquely positioned to promote such an elevated awareness of the health value of built landscapes. This thesis examines the SITES Initiative and reconsiders its approach to promoting human health through built landscapes, offering several recommendations for improvement. Although SITES incorporates many important health factors into its rating system, as it is currently structured it is possible for a landscape to achieve SITES’ highest level of certification without earning any of its health-focused credits. The recommendations in this thesis aim to increase the significance and visibility of health factors in SITES’ assessment. One key recommendation is that SITES incorporate the concepts of affordances and enabling landscapes so as to encompass a more holistic and empowering approach to health.
- Landscape architecture 
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