Brownfield sites are contaminated lands that contain known or suspected hazardous chemicals or pollutants from prior land use activities. Previous land uses of brownfields include gas stations, dry cleaning businesses, factories, steel mills, mines, refineries, and landfills. These sites are typically vacant and unused but have potential for reclamation and redevelopment. Brownfield remediation projects create jobs, save development costs by using existing infrastructure, develop new land, and increase property values and local tax incomes.
Many brownfield sites are transformed into golf courses, schools, housing, and nature-based solutions (NBS) such as urban parks and community gardens. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a widely used certification program for construction. LEED ensures that construction has met high standards to provide healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. Credits toward LEED certification are given for brownfield redevelopment and remediation. The benefits of brownfield redevelopments include:
- Removal and remediation of contaminants, thereby improving environmental health
- Community involvement, thereby bringing stakeholders together and integrating common goals to improve the area
- Increased green space, thereby improving community health and increasing biodiversity
- Creation of recreation opportunities, thereby improving wellbeing of community residents
- Improved use of urban space, thereby reducing urban sprawl
- Transformation of abandoned and underused sites, thereby creating community assets
- Community revitalization, thereby improving landscape aesthetics
- Reduction of crime, thereby increasing community safety
Reclamation of contaminated land through NBS can benefit built environments by improving soil health, stormwater runoff, surface water and groundwater quality, and wildlife habitat.
Many governments, such as the Province of Ontario, are realizing the benefits of brownfield redevelopment and are providing property tax and other incentives to encourage these projects.