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- Shield Civil Engineering Spotlight: Brownfields Redevelopment
Brownfields redevelopment can be an incredibly complex process. Shield Engineering’s professional team frequently assists with many different components of Brownfields construction projects, from site assessments to contamination remediation.
What is Brownfields Redevelopment?
Quite broadly, the EPA defines Brownfields redevelopment as the reuse of any land which may present a public or environmental hazard. It’s a definition without a lot of nuance, and for good reason. Brownfields properties are everywhere, from former dry cleaners to vacant, multi-story industrial buildings. For decades, Brownfields lands were avoided or developed without due caution; once potential hazards became common knowledge, many developers simply stayed away from these “risky” properties for fear of contamination, hazardous exposure, and bad press.
The Evolution of Brownfields Redevelopment
In the mid-1990s, the Federal Government stepped in. In an attempt to reuse and remediate the some 450,000+ Brownfields properties in the U.S., the government began offering grants for municipalities and tax breaks as well as liability protections for developers willing to properly improve these properties. This investment spurred thousands of redevelopment projects across the country that have enhanced communities and lessened the public’s risk of exposure to hazardous materials.
Shield Engineering’s Role in Brownfields Redevelopment
Once designated a Brownfields property, land may only be redeveloped according to highly-specific standards and regulations. The first step of any redevelopment project is the implementation of an Environmental Due Diligence process; the first step of that process is a Site Assessment, Phase I and Brownfields Assessment. For Brownfields properties, these steps are incredibly important as they uncover exactly which risks and the level of contamination a property faces. Shield Engineering’s experienced environmental services group works hand-in-hand with our laboratory partners to perform a wide variety of testing including (but not limited to) vapor intrusion, soil, surface water, groundwater, and hazardous materials.
After the initial phases of the Site Assessment are complete, Shield works with developers to remediate any areas that pose an unacceptable risk:
Essentially the “cleanup” portion of a Brownfields redevelopment, this phase can be complex and wide-ranging, spanning everything from toxic chemical disposal to soil and groundwater remediation. Specifications for cleanup vary state-by-state but the end-goal is always property that is safe to use, posing no additional risk to human health or the environment.
Long-term Planning for Brownfields
Successful redevelopment of Brownfields lands requires significant planning and aftercare. Shield Engineering offers clients much-needed expertise on regulatory compliance as well as risk-based consulting services, both of which are useful in determining whether a property should be purchased in the first place. For some developers, the scope of certain properties’ contamination just isn’t worth the risk.
After development, it’s also important for property managers to understand the continued risks of using Brownfields lands. Developers can still be held responsible for future issues if the property hasn’t been adequately remediated; vapor intrusions are common after-effects of improperly-managed Brownfields redevelopment. Shield Engineering specializes in thorough, comprehensive consulting to prevent these kids of problems down the road.
Would you like to know more about the Shield team’s industry-leading experience with Brownfields properties? Reach out to any of our regional offices today to discuss your project.