Brownfield Development – Background, Setbacks and Examples

Background to Brownfield Development

Brownfield Development is a term in urban planning which includes land that has previously been contaminated or used by industrial waste that has now become vacant and unused. It is a term that is opposite to its counterpart of Greenfield Development. However, Brownfield Development can be regenerated and used again if the land is cleared of its contamination before any new development occurs in the area. Brownfield development is most well known in the UK and USA more recently and has been a part of England’s industrial age and heritage.  For instance, in the UK, the UK government declared in 1998 that all new development in the country should take place in Brownfield land.

Brownfield land is the popular term that can be used in urban planning to describe the previously developed land but which is currently not in use whether the land is contaminated or not. Especially Brownfield is considered as the land which is previously used for industrial or any commercial purposes. It is the land with known as well as suspected pollution even it includes soil contamination due to the excess hazardous waste.

Of course, the term derived from its opposite which is greenfield land. Most importantly, brownfield sites need preparatory regenerative work before the new development that can be partly occupied. Some of the Brownfield sites include

  • Oil refineries
  • Dry cleaners
  • Railroads
  • Gas stations
  • Steel or any other heavy manufacturing plants etc

With rapid urban growth many new developments taking place on previous brownfield lands including the development of green spaces. This is because as land becomes degenerated if it is unused, it will decay. So, it is better to use the land for new developments and regenerate the land so that the area doesn’t go to waste. However, the concept is somewhat controversial because businesses and developers are often reluctant to build on brownfield development because of the expenses incurred on clearing contaminated waste. Also, getting the necessary permissions and legal issues surrounding brownfield development is seen as a setback to most developers. Building on brownfield land also requires technical skills and valuation and sometimes even after remediation, contamination might still persist in addition to environmental pollution. These are controversial issues that stop developers from going further with brownfield development.

Brownfield Development - Developing Land

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With all the controversies, an advantage of Brownfield Development is that “the reclamation and reuse of brownfield sites is a core component of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy integrating a wide range of economic, social and environmental objectives” suggesting that Brownfield Development has some advantages as well.


As mentioned there is some controversy surrounding brownfield development. But some of the major barriers for the development include:

  1. Cost of clearing the land – The immense cost for cleaning the brownfield land to safety standards is difficult and not something most developers would be interested in investing because the cost of the land after cleaning the contamination might be less than what it actually took for the total cost of the land. This can also postpone the redevelopment processes
  2. Waste regeneration – It is thought that if the waste generated by contamination is not cleared in advance, that the residents of the area might be affected by the previous use of the land. This indicates that the regeneration process needs to be well thought and strictly generated so that it doesn’t affect the new use of the land. For instance, tanks which still have waste in them and are not cleaned properly, might not benefit from the new regeneration of the land.

Some examples of Brownfield Use

Despite its controversy, there have been post-redevelopment uses for commercial, residential and public space use of Brownfield Development. Examples include:

  • Atlantic Station Project in Atlanta in the USA which was one of the first brownfield developments in the USA. This was redeveloped as a park and monumental significance for the people of Atlanta.
  • Pittsburg in Pennsylvania has also converted steel mill sites into residential and shopping high-end complex generating a large revenue for the city.
  • Even China has taken advantage of brownfield development, for instance, the Ningbo Eco-Corridor is brownfield converted to a two-mile-long urban filter in Ningbo, China.

As evident, many cities are making use of brownfield land for further development in the area, particularly through regeneration. This has been very beneficial for local residents and municipalities alike as they develop public spaces for general use. If more cities followed through Brownfield Development, land contamination could be avoided and put to use through re-development of the area.

Brownfield Development

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Mediating development

Nowadays, brownfield development gets great popularity; the redevelopment of the brownfields offers ultimate benefits to a community that also includes an increased tax base, utilization of old or existing infrastructure, removal of blight, the creation of new jobs. In general, the redevelopment needs the removal of contaminants that helps to protect human health at the same time protects our environment from different hazards.

In general, the remediation of a brownfield site is the process of removing contaminants that support human health. Most importantly, redevelopment is important and it can only take place after the environmental health risks and other factors have been removed. However, remediation is important but it can be expensive at the same time complex that other factors.

Still redeveloping brownfields is important at the same time useful in different ways; even it needs to be seriously considered that allows you to get free from complications. You should consider some important factors for before purchasing brownfield land.  This land is perfectly suitable for remediation, especially people prefer these kinds of lands due to low costs even the value will exceed of the land the proper development.

Nowadays there are different new as well as the most exciting remediation technologies also available that also started to emerge. These kinds of techniques help to bring new changes in the existing land and also relatively low-cost when compared to any other traditional processes. brownfields development  help to protect as well as preserving the environment:

Bioremediation is one of the popular concepts that also use the natural processes of enzymes, indigenous bacteria, fungi etc that help to destroy as well as neutralize toxins and other contaminants.

Phytoremediation is the common type that also utilizes plants to store contaminants but some kinds of contaminants like heavy metals can be harvested. These are some of the new remediation technologies that are highly used to meet exact needs. In general, supports to restore the damaged environment as well as rehabilitation of brownfield land.

However, cleaning up brownfields still considered as the expensive method but the clean-up financially worthwhile.  Normally, brownfields help to improve communities, as well as this, also make them more sustainable, on the other hand, brownfield redevelopment brings a lot of effective changes.

Economic benefits of Brownfield Development

  • Removes actual sources of land such as soil and water contamination
  • Preserves historical landmarks
  • Help to prevent heritage architecture
  • Removes abandoned
  • Decreasing the risk of injury
  • Recovers desirable locations
  • Redevelopment also allows for smarter growth
  • Eliminates vandalism
  • Revives older urban communities
  • Beautifies urban landscapes etc

 The redevelopment of the brownfield also locates new development for the better use. It can be made on the existing municipal infrastructure so it is highly useful in many ways. Apart from that, it is the effective way to increases property assessment values as well as resulting tax base. Most importantly this technique also increases revenue for governments. The brownfield development also preserves greenfield land.

Related: Garden City Movement, What is Urban Growth

Brownfield Investment – Pros & Cons

The brown-field investment now becomes popular and it is the building is already constructed.  Even the start-up costs may be less than others apart from that, the time devoted to construction also eliminates so it’s highly beneficial.

Usually, the national, as well as the municipal government, needs proper approvals but the brown-field facility already is in so the investments of the brownfield considered as the real option. in general, the Brown-field investments completely reduce the risk and it can run the risk of leading to the buyer’s remorse.

On the other hand, it can be suited for different purposes completely. Brownfield projects are now popular and these kinds of projects also built over Brownfield land as well as the Brownfield site. It is the great option to get huge profits in future.

A Brownfield land considered as the infrastructure or land or building which was operational in the past but now in the idle condition. Now, most of the companies are also interested in investing Brownfield project to meet different needs.

Cleaning up in brownfields is not only generating huge profits in the future and combines environmental benefits as well as social improvement. Due to these factors most of the planners, local stakeholders, as well as developers, also join to improve their communities. Usually, Brownfields lands are located in urban, rural as well as suburban areas. These can help clean up cities, at the same time grow suburbs to develop green spaces. First of all, it offers a lot of environmental benefits and also transforms into apartments, thriving office buildings, public parks, shopping centres etc.

Brownfield redevelopment offers new life into neighborhoods because it is considered as the transformation of entire cities that also attract people. These kinds of efforts also increase local tax bases at the same time facilitate job growth based on the EPA.

Unlike any other option brownfield is considered as the real property, so it is considered as more than just land that also including mineral rights, buildings, crops etc. in general, the redeveloping brownfield also expanding the uses. Brownfield advantages include

  • Existing infrastructure reduces the workload
  • Existing environmental licenses
  • Existing council approvals
  • Reduced project cost
  • Fits for modifications

With the brownfield development you can enjoy the above mentioned benefits

When a company chooses to purchase or utilize an already built production facility it is considered a brownfield investment. Most importantly, the investing company can buy or lease this kind of buildings to eliminate building cost as well as other complications of the project. Especially focusing on remodelling as well as skipping initial paperwork this allows one to get great advantages. It is considered as the good short-term startup opportunity.

Positive Aspects Of Brownfield Investment:

First of all, it eliminates the need for construction, as well as the most company,  can choose a facility which is already functioning. Apart from that, it would also save time, effort as well as cost when it comes to employment. Overall, it also completely reduces the expenses down, so it is the worthy choice. You need to upgrade or add new equipment. It is also proving to be cost friendly and also saves the most time.

On the whole, the environmental impact is also reduced gradually. Even no new green areas or other lands need to be developed. Overall brownfield development is considered as the best choice to generate huge profits in future that also eliminates environmental pollutions.


Therefore, although brownfield development is not thought to be the most ideal situation for tenants and developers, it has some good uses and is growing in the 21st century, particularly as more developers in the USA make use of the land. From high-end shopping complexes to parks and monuments, brownfield development has taken many new areas of interest for developers of this century. There are many new laws generated throughout the world regarding brownfield development and it is a direct consequence of the industrial age. As mentioned, it has proven to be controversial and is slowly gaining pace as new technology and cleaning services are being invented for this purpose. Having residential parks for the land has proven to be useful and is well regulated by many municipalities. Therefore, although it is unclear if brownfield development would serve as an advantage in the future, it mostly depends on the location and the waste that has been generated on the previously used land.