LEED Brownfields Sites: The Benefits of Brownfield Site Development and Remediation (Part 1)


A brownfield site (or simply a “brownfield”) is land that was previously used for industrial purposes or commercial use. The land might be contaminated by small amounts of hazardous waste or pollution, but if cleaned up properly has the potential to be reused and become a productive part of the community surrounding it.

Generally, brownfields exist within a city or town’s industrial section and are usually found on sites with abandoned factories, commercial buildings or other operations/businesses that are known for polluting. Typical contaminants found on brownfield sites can include hydrocarbon spillages, solvents, pesticides, heavy metals like lead paints, tributyltins and asbestos. Abandoned properties breed disease and illness and take down property benefits. (Land that is more severely contaminated and has high concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, does not fall under the brownfield site classification.) Brownfield land is often underused because of the types of contaminations that have been used on the property.

When a developer or owner considers which land to purchase and develop on, many think of these properties as lost causes and brownfield properties are often overlooked. But brownfields are real property – often property with real value. The expansion and development of these properties may be complicated by the potential hazardous materials or contamination, but the benefits might outweigh the risks (in both monetary benefits as well as natural and community benefits.) And that’s where a LEED professional like you comes in…

“Brownfields” and “hazardous materials” are words that scare most people. Additionally, possible contamination raises issues and concerns among communities which can lead to community problems and infighting. Property contamination generally makes people hesitant to use the land – and these brownfields usually cause decreased property values. Keeping the land unused perpetuates the problems in the neighborhood by destroying the value of the buildings and property around the brownfield land. This is why it’s so important for developers to seriously consider brownfield remediation when they are selecting their LEED project site.

There is another, often overlooked, benefit to brownfield remediation. Brownfields are often located on favorable real estate – often really desirable real estate with places nearby to other businesses or services. The desirable location of these brownfield sites can assist you with earning other LEED points.

So what is brownfield remediation? Brownfield site remediation is redevelopment or reuse of land that may be complicated by the presence of potential hazardous substance pollutant or contaminants. There are approximately 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. — that’s a lot of sites just waiting for someone to come in, clean up and use for productive and economic developmental purposes.

So as a LEED Project Manager why would you want to tackle a LEED project that involves brownfield remediation? Environmental cleanup of a brownfield site can help the health of people, nature and the environment. Remediating brownfield sites allows you to clean up existing land instead of building on “new” land that might be currently used by animals or protected species. Cleaning up brownfield sites also allows you to utilize the existing infrastructure. In the end developing brownfields can make neighborhoods more desirable – creating jobs, better places for people to live and better for communities.

In Part 2 we’ll go even deeper into brownfield remediation and how to many these types of projects.

If you’re interested in learning more about brownfield remediation AND earn continuing education credits at the same time, check out the Brownfield Remediation online course – click on Learn More under Classes 


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