Domain 4- Performance Based Built Environment




Brownfields and Contaminated Lands

Brownfields are former industrial sites that are vacant or underutilised because of environmental cleanup fears. In real terms they are properties which owners keep off the market, municipalities won’t take through eminent domain, and bankers avoid making loans on because of cleanup liability fear. 

Policies should be adopted for the returning of abandoned or under-used sites to productive prosperous use and the investigation and cleanup of environmental contamination and the redevelopment of contaminated properties.

Brownfield redevelopment means new building on former industrial and transport sites, or complete renovation of existing plant for non-industrial use. Until recently, this was usually for the service sector: many offices, some shops, hotels and conference centres.  Subdivision of old industrial plant, for new industrial users, is not brownfield redevelopment.   Brownfield residential redevelopment is a new pattern, in regions with relative land shortage.  Usually, it implies a suburban style of development on a cleared site, but with higher density than true suburban housing.

Brownfields cleanup projects can play a central role in urban and rural revitalization and offer alternatives to new, greenfields developments.  For many years, brownfields programs focused on cleanup of older industrial sites without consideration of the broader growth goals of the community or region. Today, however, brownfields are being seen as key components of state growth management initiatives. There is a compelling economic case for state spending on brownfields. A dollar of state spending produces about 10 times to 100 times more dollars in economic benefits. Expanding the mission of brownfields justifies greater state spending.,1188,C_ISSUE_BRIEF%5ED_306,00.html

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Brownfields Issues

Revitalisation of Communities

The revitalization of communities involves more than the reuse of old buildings. Redevelopment encompasses a wide array of socio-economic and a land use issue, all of which must be addressed if a community is to be revitalized.

Brownfields properties tend to be concentrated in older urban areas inhabited by peoples of colour or low-income people of all ethnic backgrounds.  Concerns raised by people from urban brownfields communities should be addressed.  Territorial, tribal, and rural representatives should be engaged in this process and add their concerns to the list.  Brownfields revitalization is an environmental justice issue, and all stakeholders should work to overcome the barriers to public involvement as well as to address the concentration of environmental problems typically present in such communities.  All brownfields stakeholders should aggressively pursue strategies that deliver equity to those who are most affected by brownfields properties.

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Brownfields Projects Effect on Communities

Brownfields projects can influence nearby communities in many ways. They can remove health hazards and visible blight, or they can simply provide window dressing under the guise of institutional controls. They can bring in new polluting industries to the sites of old ones; they can trigger gentrification that looks good but drives the old neighbours out; or they can provide new business and housing opportunities to long-time residents. They can generate traffic, or they can bring new transportation options. They can provide new jobs, or they can aggravate economic disparities.

Today, at most brownfields sites, the people who are most affected have little influence over which of these outcomes prevail. Environmental decisions - or at least sign-off - are the responsibility of state regulators, with local health agencies playing a supporting role. Land use planning is generally a prerogative of local governments, which usually answer to an electorate much larger than the affected neighbourhood. Financing may be controlled by redevelopment agencies, the private sector, or a mix of public and private entities. Given the concentration of brownfields in poor communities, the neighbours rarely have the resources to influence investment decisions.

To the affected public, the combined process of environmental cleanup and economic revitalization is at best bewildering. Agencies and companies, often with conflicting or at least disparate goals and objectives, often take actions without considering the views or interests of the people who live next door, downstream, downwind, or up-traffic. To achieve the lofty goals inherent in the brownfields concept, it's essential to bring public stakeholders into the decision-making process early in the project development process, and to keep them involved until completion. Though many developers are suspicious of community activists, a constructive program of public involvement actually promotes more successful projects.

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Brownfield  Stakeholders

For successful brownfield redevelopment, the interested parties or "stakeholders" need to come together to identify interests, conflicts and problems. At the very minimum, interested parties will include:

bulletProperty owner and, if it exists, operator;
bulletBrownfield redeveloper;
bulletThe lender or financial backer;
bulletThe regulators (state, and in some cases, federal);
bulletLocal government planning and redevelopment agencies; and
bulletRepresentatives from the affected community.

Together the stakeholders can develop a strategy to productively use contaminated property. They can work together to clean up and redevelop contaminated properties, revitalize communities, create jobs, prevent urban sprawl and make a significant contribution to their country, region or city.

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Clean Up Process

The cleanup is performed, in part, to accommodate the future use of the site (i.e., a parking lot has different cleanup standards than a school).  In general, three options are evaluated: leave contamination in place and monitor, treat the contamination in place and monitor the cleanup, or completely remove the contamination.  Especially on larger sites, a combination of these techniques is generally employed.
In general, the entity that causes the pollution has to pay for the cleanup. Often, however, sites are abandoned and it is difficult or impossible to track down past owners or users, or the contamination is so old that the source of it is unknown.  In these cases, there should be new funding sources and programs to assist new owners working to resolve environmental issues and redevelop.

Evaluating the Risk: Risk Assessment

All risk assessments must consider existing and reasonably likely future human exposure and significant adverse effects to ecological receptors in the locality of the facility.  Risk assessment issues could be:

bulletExisting and reasonably likely future human exposures and significant adverse effects to ecological receptors;
bulletEstimates of plausible upper-bound exposures that neither grossly underestimate nor grossly overestimate risks;
bulletThe range of probabilities of risks actually occurring, the range of populations likely to be exposed, current and reasonably likely future land uses, and quantitative and qualitative descriptions of uncertainties;
bulletCriteria for the selection and application of fate and transport models
bulletHigh-end and central-tendency exposure cases and assumptions;
bulletIndividual risk estimates and population risk estimates
bulletApproaches for addressing cumulative risks posed by multiple contaminants or multiple pathways

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Brownfields Redevelopment Principles

bulletBrownfields redevelopment should foster healthy communities throughout the city and region. This can best be achieved by devising and following effective participatory planning processes that identify redevelopment priorities, build local capacity, and stipulate leadership in all sectors.
bulletPublic incentives for greenfield development should not outweigh incentives for recycling brownfields. Redevelopment of brownfield areas will reduce the need for new infrastructure in outlying areas, conserve environmentally sensitive areas, and otherwise save the costs of sprawl.
bulletEngaging the private sector and expanding market resources are critical to brownfield redevelopment.
bulletEffective strategies require strong partnerships among government, communities, and the private sector. Cooperation is the only way serious progress will be made.
bulletPublic brownfield expenditures should:

Address sites that would not be redeveloped without government participation;

Redevelop disadvantaged areas, especially where environmental justice is a concern;

Focus on areas where brownfield reuse will likely catalyse additional development;

Create and retain jobs;

Maximize public benefit.

bulletTo prevent the spread of brownfields and to foster sustainable communities, redevelopment efforts should seek to attract environmentally sound industries;
bulletBrownfield redevelopment cannot solve the city’s environmental, economic development, and social problems. Brownfield initiatives should be viewed as one important component of a comprehensive strategy for revitalizing urban communities and coordinated with other local, state, and federal planning and policy development efforts.
bulletIn areas where contamination is widespread, brownfield redevelopment should seek to leverage broader, integrated strategies for promoting viable, long-term, area-wide development.
bulletEnvironmental cleanup standards must be clarified to accommodate a full range of land use options Cleanup and land use decisions must consider community-wide issues.
bulletA large-scale brownfield redevelopment program should be based on knowledge and experience gained through pilot efforts and tests of innovative approaches and tools.
bulletWhile industrial redevelopment should be the top priority of the city’s brownfield redevelopment pilot program, the city and other interests should explore other reuse options that meet community development goals.

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Financing And Funding

The complicated process and legal hurdles of acquiring, cleaning and reusing brownfields sites can be expensive in terms of site preparation expenses and fees, and costly in terms of time delays.  Site evaluation processes, testing, possible legal liabilities, and other factors serve to deter private participation in activities to bring old industrial sites back to productive use.  In many situations, the private development and financial sectors are not able or willing to act on their own to ensure that the full economic potential of site reuse will be achieved.  This is because of the following factors:

bulletUncertain Costs and Timelines: Cleanup costs can range from next to nothing up into the millions, depending on the extent and nature of the problem and the cleanup standards established. Buyers, lenders and investors need to quantify their risks and costs and pin down project timelines in order to evaluate proposals and to make projects succeed. The environmental variables associated with brownfields complicate this task.
bulletAccess to Capital: Financial institutions are reluctant to make loans associated with potentially contaminated properties for three reasons. First, lenders fear that unexpected cleanup liability could bankrupt borrowers and thus jeopardize the loan. Second, these properties make undesirable collateral. In the event of a borrower’s failure to pay back a loan, the bank could end up taking title to contaminated property. Third, the law is unclear as to the circumstances under which lenders who engage in workouts with borrowers to help them avoid default can themselves be sued as operators of a hazardous waste site. All this can have a chilling effect on the availability of capital for redevelopment.

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Possible Sources of Fund

Private Sector Financing

bulletResponsible parties. Prior to redevelopment, many sites are cleaned up by the party responsible for the environmental contamination.
bulletPurchasers. Often times a property can be cleaned up by the new property owner when a responsible party could not be identified or held accountable, or where the party was financially insolvent.
bulletCommercial Banks. Many banks are reluctant to loan money on brownfield projects until remedial work at the site has been certified as complete.  However, banks are increasingly exploring the role of lending on contaminated property, and many will do so.
bulletFoundations. Private foundations may be sources of money for cleanup and redevelopment.

Public Sector Incentives

The public sector can do much to help level the economic playing field between greenfield and brownfield sites. Creatively crafted and carefully targeted incentives and assistance can help advance cleanup and reuse activities.

Funding to Cleaning Up Contamination

bulletThe companies or agencies responsible for causing the contamination if they are economically viable, particularly if the state has a strong program which assigns them strict liability for their contamination;
bulletSpecial cleanup funds created by state or local governments;
bulletPublic funds established to finance the redevelopment of depressed economic areas;
bulletTax incentives established under special federal, state, or local programs; and
bulletThe future developer (depending upon the value of the site and the cost of cleaning up the contamination).

Funding The New Development

bulletThe future developer;
bulletBanks or other investors, particularly if they have some corporate commitment to invest in urban redevelopment;
bulletPublic funds established to finance the redevelopment of depressed economic areas, to create public areas such as parks, or for other special purposes; and
bulletTax incentives established under special federal, state, or local programs.

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Related Web Sites

Brownfields Non Profit Network

Financing Brownfield Cleanup and Redevelopment

By Charles Bartsch

Coming Clean for Economic Development

A Resource Book on Environmental Cleanup and Economic Development Opportunities, ISBN: 1-882061-59-4


Charles Bartsch, Senior Policy Analyst, Economic Development

Elizabeth Collaton, Senior Policy Analyst, Pollution Prevention and Waste Reduction

Edith Pepper, Policy Analyst, Brownfields Research        

National Governors Association Online,1188,C_ISSUE_BRIEF%5ED_306,00.html

NGA Center for Best Practices
This report discusses the success of brownfields programs that attack sprawl in five states: Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

New Mission for Brownfields

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

USA General Services Administration (GSA)

Landlord and real estate agent for the federal government. GSA launched the Brownfields Redevelopment Initiative to identify and redeploys under-utilised federal properties

The Centre for Public Environmental Oversight (CPEO)

CPEO promotes and facilitates public participation in the oversight of environmental activities at federal facilities, private "Superfund" sites, and Brownfields

Clean up to Build up

The Winston-Salem Brownfields Program

Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative

The North Carolina Brownfields

The North Carolina Brownfields Program encourages the safe reuse of abandoned properties that have some measure of environmental impairment.

The Brownfields 2002 Conference:  Investing in the Future

This conference will introduce a new and enlarged Brownfields program inspired by federal legislation signed on January 11, 2002.  The Conference will be November 13-15, 2002 in Charlotte, North Carolina at The Charlotte Convention Centre.

National Brownfield Association

The National Brownfield Association, established in June, 1999, is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to stimulating brownfield redevelopment by providing information resources and educational programs.

Nine Mile Run Greenway Project

Conversations in the Brownfields into Greenways
Pittsburgh, PA

ROBIN - The Great Lakes Regional Online Brownfields Information Network

"Recycling Land For A Sustainable Future"

The Brownfields Centre

Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh

The Brownfields Centre (TBC) was founded on the recognized need to integrate multiple disciplines to realize potential benefits from revitalizing idle industrial sites.

Brownfields Revitalization Systems Synthesis Project
A study of stakeholder roles in development decision making conducted by the H John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University.

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Revitalisation of communities

Projects effects on communities


Clean up

Redevelopment principles

Financing & Funding

Fund sources

Related Web Sites