Sustainable Site Planning and Design

STOCKSCH 386 – 3 credits


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The most fundamental role of the Designer is to inspire and solve problems creatively and practically. Site design is both an art and science. Landscape designers are place-makers and space-shapers. Sustainable site design considers the impacts to future generations of the design solutions we choose to solve today’s problems. By thoughtfully synthesizing site information, namely the natural and human factors that affect a site, we can create forward-looking design solutions that well serve both our human constituents and the natural world well into the future.

Course Description: This course will be an exploration into the fundamentals of landscape design with particular attention to integrating both existing and new buildings sustainably into their landscapes and with a view to reducing maintenance needs.
Students investigate sustainable design strategies that address the ecological, water, energy and food system links between buildings and their supporting sites, as exemplified by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system and Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). Topics include: design principles and process, natural factors (e.g. topography, soils, vegetation), green roofs, green walls/vertical gardens, rainwater collection systems, native planting, edible landscapes and permaculture, sustainable forestry practices, post-industrial landscapes, and the
human use of outdoor spaces. Emphasis will be placed on cost saving techniques for creating self-sustaining, low maintenance sites. Many real world examples will be discussed.

This will be an introductory course focusing on the theory and practice of sustainable landscape design and planning. It is assumed that students have little or no background/professional experience in design or planning. The first half of the
course will rely primarily upon readings, videos, lecture and discussion. A five minute long mid-term student briefing presentation will be assigned and presented online. In the second half of the course students will delve more deeply into applying the design process culminating in a focused 10 minute long final design project to be presented online.

Course Objectives:

  • Gain understanding of sustainable landscape design principles and practices including natural and human factors
  • Relate sustainable landscape/site design to energy, food and natural resource issues and the built environment
  • Promote understanding of and hone communication skills related to, professional-client relations
  • Gain experience preparing a coherent sustainable landscape plan and plan set or related project

Instructor: Professor Thomas S. Benjamin, RLA, LEED-AP BD+C

For more information, see these resources:

Technology: please review the following.

Supported Browsers and Java Versions (Windows PC and Mac)
Please see the Blackboard Help page for the most current supported and unsupported browsers.

System Requirements: PC / Compatible Windows

  • Windows XP (32/64-bit), Windows Vista (32/64-bit), Windows 7, or Windows 8
  • 800 MHz processor (2 GHz or higher recommended)
  • 512MB of RAM (2+ GB recommended)
  • Cable or DSL connection. (dial-up modem is not recommended)
  • 500 MB free hard disk space (2 GB recommended)

System Requirements: Mac

    • Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or higher
    • 867 MHz processor (2 GHz or higher recommended)
    • 512MB of RAM (2+ GB recommended)
    • Cable or DSL connection (dial-up modem is not recommended)
    • 500 MB free hard disk space (2 GB recommended)

NOTE: for more information, see Technical Support.


This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward other UMass degree programs.   Online classes cost $482/credit.  If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.

More Online Classes

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.