What is a Brownfield?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a “Brownfield \braun-fē(Ə)ld\ — The term “Brownfield site” means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”
More practical definitions would be:
- Brownfield sites are abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use. Expansion or redevelopment of such a facility may be complicated by real or perceived environmental contaminations.
- In the United States city planning jargon, a brownfield site (or simply a brownfield) is land previously used for industrial purposes or certain commercial uses. The land may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up.
Generally, brownfield sites exist in a community’s industrial section, on locations with abandoned factories or commercial buildings, or other previously polluting operations. By emphasizing the revitalization of depressed areas, the reuse of aging buildings, and the development of vacant and abandoned properties, environmental restoration is realized and the tax base is built for the benefit of the community.
Many contaminated brownfield sites sit unused for decades because the cost of cleaning them to safe standards is more than the land would be worth after redevelopment. A number of innovative financial and remediation techniques have been used in the U.S. in recent years to expedite the cleanup of brownfield sites. For example, some environmental firms have teamed up with insurance companies to underwrite the cleanup of distressed brownfield properties and provide a guaranteed cleanup cost for a specific brownfield property, to limit land developers’ exposure to environmental remediation costs and pollution lawsuits. The environmental firm first performs an extensive investigation of the brownfield site to ensure that the guaranteed cleanup cost is reasonable and they will not wind up with any surprises.
- The USEPA estimates that over 500,000 Brownfields exist in the United States.
- Redeveloping Brownfield sites could lead to $2.2B in local tax revenue, annually.
- 1 acre of redeveloped Brownfield corresponds to 4.5 acres of greenfields “saved”.
- 50,000 completed Brownfield sites may have produced 1.9 million jobs and $703B in investments.
* Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Rick Leighton is Senior Vice President-Corporate Services at NAI Global.
About the author
Scope of Service Experience Mr. Leighton is responsible for corporate account management and new business development of corporate accounts within NAI Global's Corporate Services Group. He also provides leadership to the NAI Global Technology Team which provides supporting system solutions for corporate accounts. Education BA, Accounting - Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA Background & Experience Thirty-two years of varied experience within the chemicals industry relating to real estate, sales, service support and marketing. Former Corporate Real Estate Manager, Marketing Manager, and Sales Administrative and Customer Service Manager. Organized and led a best practices group with fellow corporate real estate managers from global chemical firms active in industrial real estate activities. This group exchanged best practices relating to environmental, process improvements, site selection, support systems and procedures. The exchange provided members of the group with validation and new ideas for improving the effectiveness and productivity of their corporate organizations. Manager, Real Estate and Space Planning - Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. Accountable for managing all real estate activities (acquisitions, disposals, options, leases, development, zoning, easements, licenses, permits, appraisals, etc.) in support of the company's businesses within the Americas, the property management functions (including lets to third parties and landlord responsibilities) for the company's let properties, the information system for the company's global real estate holdings and space planning activities for all corporate and operating groups in the Allentown, PA area. Professional Affiliations & Designations Mr. Leighton is a licensed Real Estate Salesperson in Pennsylvania and is a member of Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC). Mr. Leighton is the author of several published articles on Facilities and Real Estate. Additionally, Rick has been a speaker at the annual ARCHIBUS User Conference and partcipated on a panel at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) 2006 Annual Conference. Significant Transactions Key accounts include Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Bombardier, Dow Corning, E. I. DuPont, First Group Americas and U.S. Steel.
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