When considering a site for a development project, you may immediately be drawn to a site that has not previously been built upon. These sites are known as “greenfield” sites and are often undeveloped land in rural areas, although greenfield sites can also be found in urban and suburban areas.
While greenfield sites are often appealing, it may also be worth considering “brownfield” sites for a development project. In this guide, we will explain what brownfield sites are, common obstacles with brownfield redevelopment and how EPRO can help.
What Are Brownfield Sites?
Brownfield sites are previously developed sites that have fallen out of use and have not yet been redeveloped. These are often abandoned sites found in urban and suburban areas, which were once used for industrial, residential or commercial purposes. There are approximately 450,000 brownfield sites in the United States.
Brownfield sites can be derelict and even dangerous. Potential developers and investors are often hesitant to purchase these sites as, despite the fact that the land is typically cheaper than greenfield sites, there may be significant redevelopment costs and time delays in construction. There is often extensive and expensive clean-up required, a local regulatory oversite process, and there may be buildings on the site that need to be demolished. There may also be trouble with accessing the property, especially if these sites are surrounded by buildings that might also be contaminated.
Another common risk is contamination — brownfield sites can be contaminated with potentially hazardous substances, especially if they were once used for industrial purposes, gas stations, landfills or dry cleaners, which can produce a surprising amount of contamination. Developers and investors can be liable for any public health issues caused by onsite contaminants, even if these contaminants were there long before redevelopment.
What Problems Do Brownfields Cause?
Although contamination and other common problems with brownfields can make investors hesitant to purchase, these problems are precisely why it is so important to redevelop these sites. There are significant problems caused by brownfields being left in place, including the following:
Health Risks From Contamination
Contamination can directly impact public and environmental health by polluting soil, air, and water—even off-site. Chemical, biological, and physical contaminants can migrate through emissions, surface runoff and groundwater movement. This can cause or exacerbate public and environmental health issues.
A common example of this is contaminant vapor intrusion, where contaminants in soil or groundwater enter the air in the form of vapor. This vapor can rise through cracks, holes or other entry points in a building’s structure (commonly through the floor) and cause health problems for a building’s occupants. As well as by walking on the site, people can be exposed to contaminants by wind carrying contaminants off-site or by drinking groundwater that was found on-site.
For example, benzene is a particularly dangerous VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) that can contaminate sites. This VOC is used in the production of various products and also comes from gas stations, vehicle exhausts and other industrial emissions. Benzene is carcinogenic, and the effects of its inhalation include a range of health issues from headaches all the way to reproductive issues and leukemia.
Brownfield sites can pose immediate safety risks in a number of ways. Derelict buildings can have structural weaknesses and be prone to collapse, which can cause serious or even fatal injuries for occupants. Even when sites are fenced off and access is restricted, people can often still access these sites and put themselves at risk.
Sites can also include flammable or explosive materials, dangerous heights and areas prone to flooding.
Other Threats To Communities
Brownfields can have other negative impacts on communities and quality of life. For example, these sites can be used for criminal activity or can become targets for vandalism or other anti-social behavior.
Derelict structures or messy sites can also be eyesores and spoil the beauty of a local area. Property values can also fall due to nearby brownfields, and the overall morale of a community can be affected.
What Are the Benefits of Brownfield Redevelopment?
Redeveloping brownfield sites has many benefits, including:
Economic Potential of Land
While redevelopment costs may be significant for brownfield sites, development projects can be profitable for both developers and for local economies in general. Brownfield sites can be good locations for residential, commercial, industrial or other purposes. The initial investment can result in a tidy profit for both developers and cities in the future.
Improvement of Local Communities
While abandoned and undeveloped brownfield sites can lead to health and safety issues, crime, reduced property values, and more, redeveloping them can reverse these issues and breathe new life into communities—socially, economically, and more. Redevelopments can create jobs, increasing local tax bases.
Redevelopment of brownfield sites can prevent future issues at these locations, eliminating the need for costly fixes in the future. For example, installing modern VIM (Vapor Intrusion Mitigation) membranes can eliminate the problem of vapor intrusion from contaminants like benzene, TCE and PCE and their resulting health effects.
How EPRO Can Help With Brownfield Redevelopment
Problems like vapor intrusion can make redevelopment of brownfield sites difficult. However, professionals can help you develop an effective brownfield redevelopment plan that addresses these issues.
Here at EPRO, we have helped countless clients solve waterproofing and vapor intrusion challenges, revitalizing local environments and local economies. We offer a variety of products for vapor intrusion collection systems, such as the following:
EPRO Vapor Intrusion Barriers
Vapor intrusion barriers are impermeable watertight membranes used to stop contaminant vapors from passing into a building structure through entry points. They are typically used alongside other components, such as venting, to make up a complete VIM system.
Vapor intrusion barriers come in a range of materials and thicknesses. While there are many types available, insufficient vapor intrusion membranes can result in inadequate vapor collection, and further costs and harmful effects down the line.
Our vapor intrusion barriers are tested and proven to be highly effective. We offer the following vapor intrusion barriers:
Geo-Seal® 100: a patented composite sub-slab barrier that is durable, puncture-resistant and proven to protect against all common VOCs. Geo-Seal 100 is particularly useful for construction projects situated on brownfield land.
Geo-Seal® EFC: a coating system designed to be applied to concrete floors and specifically formulated to resist petroleum hydrocarbon and chlorinated solvent vapors. Geo-Seal EFC is particularly useful for adding an extra layer to existing VIM systems.
Geo-Seal® EV40s: a single-sheet ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) membrane with a geotextile layer. Geo-Seal EV40s is ideal for quick installations and as an accompaniment to sub-slab ventilation systems.
Venting layers are installed beneath buildings to force the dispersal of vapors around buildings rather than into them. Vapor-Vent™ is a composite vapor collection system comprised of a three-dimensional polypropylene core and a geotextile filter fabric. It is best used in conjunction with vapor intrusion barriers.
Contact EPRO for Brownfield Vapor Intrusion Mitigation Systems
Our team of experts can help you find an effective VIMS as part of your brownfield redevelopment plan, whatever the specific circumstances and challenges of your project.
We’ve perfected our process to ensure that your project gets the budget-friendly solution it needs quickly and efficiently. After you fill out our online form, our professionals will evaluate the site and goals of your project and present the best options for your specific needs.
After your chosen EPRO system is applied and your project is finished, we’re still here to offer support and advice should issues arise — but we’re confident that your project will go over smoothly.
If you’re ready to get started or have any questions, contact us today!