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GAR Design Development and Submittal

Green area Ratio Review Process
Design Development | Calculating the GAR Score | Plan Submittal Process


Design Development

To meet minimum Green Area Ratio (GAR) coverage requirements, developers must consider integration of environmental performance landscape features at the beginning of project development. A Certified Landscape Expert must review and sign off on GAR plans before they are submitted to the Department of Energy and Environment’s Surface and Groundwater System.

A Certified Landscape Expert may be one of the following:

  • District of Columbia-licensed Landscape Architect (beginning January 29, 2021)
  • Maryland or Virginia certified Landscape Architect (until September 1, 2021)
  • International Society of Arboriculture  Certified Arborist
  • Maryland certified Professional Horticulturist
  • Landscape Contractors Assoc. MD-DC-VA certified Landscape Technician

The Green Area Ratio Guidebook provides detailed guidance for design development and appropriate standards.

Pre-development review meeting:

Project applicants and designers may request a DOEE pre-development review meeting prior to permit application submittal. There is no charge to meet with DOEE for the initial hour; additional fees are assessed for time beyond the initial hour.


Calculating the GAR Score

To achieve GAR compliance, first determine the minimum GAR score needed to reach compliance; this score differs by zoning district. Use the GAR Scoresheet  to calculate the total area of landscape elements necessary to reach the GAR score. A wide variety of landscape elements can be used to achieve compliance.

How to calculate the GAR score:

  1. Calculate the area of each proposed landscape element.
  2. Multiply the area of each landscape element by its given multiplier to provide a weighted square footage, with greater value associated with increasing environmental benefit.
  3. Add the total weighted square footages of all landscape elements.
  4. Divide the sum by the total land area of the site.

Plan Submittal Process

Submit Green Area Ratio (GAR) plans for new buildings during the Foundation-to-grade (FD) or Building (B) permit to allow coordination with stormwater plan review. If there is a stormwater management requirement with a Civil (BCIV) permit, it is recommended that GAR be submitted with the stormwater management plans during BCIV review to ensure consistency between plans. Submit GAR plans for additions or interior renovations during the Building Permit (B). All plans are submitted to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), routed to the Department of Energy and Environment’s Regulatory Review Division, and reviewed for compliance with the regulations.

How To Submit Green Area Ratio Plan Information Online

Use the DOEE’s Surface and Groundwater System (SGS) to submit GAR plans, calculations, and supplemental information as part of the GAR review process. The Certified Landscape Expert (CLE) is NOT required to upload the project to the SGS, the owner or the owner’s agent in the database may do that. However, the CLE’s licensing credentials and contact information must be provided in the SGS. CLEs signing off on GAR forms must have an active SGS account. The email entered in the CLE information section of the project must match the email associated with the CLE’s account. Additional information about adding CLE information to the SGS is located under GAR Construction Compliance and Certificate of Occupancy.

Below is a guide of the GAR plan review and submission process:

  1. Complete the online building application to DCRA.
  2. Upload the complete GAR plan set as a single PDF file to the Supporting Documents folder of ProjectDox to act as a placeholder. Do not upload individual GAR sheets to the Drawings folder.
  3. Create a DOEE Surface and Groundwater System (SGS) account if none currently exists. Instructions for creating an account and submitting to the SGS may be found on the SGS landing page. Note it may take up to one business day for a new user account to be approved before a new project can be created.
  4. Enter the site, project information, owner information, engineer information, DCRA permit number, and Certified Landscape Expert (CLE) information, and upload GAR plans as a single PDF to DOEE’s SGS. Detailed instructions can be found under the “Instructions” drop-down menu at the top of any SGS page. The GAR plans will be reviewed, commented upon, and approved in the database. Once the plan has been submitted in the SGS, fees will be generated. Fees may be paid online through the SGS by clicking the “Pay Fees” button on the login page. The review process does not begin until the initial fees are paid, and the plans uploaded to the SGS. View a list of fees.
  5. DOEE reviews the GAR plan to determine if the project meets technical requirements. The plan reviewer will respond with comments within 30 business days of the plan being recorded as a complete submittal in the SGS. Projects are not added to the reviewer’s queue until the “Submit” button is pressed on the project page.
  6. If revisions are required, comments are uploaded to the Documents section of the SGS by the DOEE reviewer. An email notification will be sent automatically to the applicant, agent, and CLE when the reviewer returns the project.
  7. The applicant will upload a clean, revised GAR plan set, along with a comment response letter, to the SGS to address all of the comments uploaded by DOEE. The next review cycle begins when the project is fully submitted in the SGS (see step 5).
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 until no additional revisions are required and the plan is ready for approval. Combine the GAR plan set with the ESC and (if applicable) SWM plans into a single PDF. Upload the final plan set to the SGS for approval, final fee issuance, and electronic stamping. Instructions for DOEE Electronic Approval Stamping are available at the SGS login page under “Instructions.” All applicable stamps will be applied on the final packet.
  9. Pay final and any supplemental fees online following the process referenced in step 4.
  10. Once the fees are paid, the approved, stamped GAR plan is available to download from the SGS, and DOEE can clear its GAR review in ProjectDox.