Page E1.1 . 20 June 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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  • Sustainable Successes

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    Brownfield Recycling

    by Lili Eylon

    Communities around the world are declaring war on brownfields, those abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. These sites, of which there are some 500,000 throughout the United States, represent pockets of disinvestment, neglect, and, often, missed opportunities.

    Brownfields come in the form of industrial properties, old gas stations, warehouses, or even residential buildings containing lead paint and asbestos.

    They can be found in any community in forms as diverse as closed-down steel mills to abandoned corner gas stations. Attracting vandals, open dumping, and other illegal activities, brownfields pose a threat to a community's well being. They lower surrounding property value and contribute to urban sprawl as businesses relocate to farmland and open space.

    The problem of brownfields is pervasive and affects cities of every size. For many years, nothing was done about these sites. The reasons were concerns about high cleanup costs, lengthy and complicated cleanup procedures, and potential liability risk.

    While these concerns persist, communities both in the United States and abroad have realized that responsible brownfield redevelopment can transform environmentally impaired property into productive assets, bringing economic growth, improved public health and environment, and better quality of life.

    In effect, fast-growing communities are learning they cannot afford to let empty acres go to waste.



    ArchWeek Photo

    The Union-Pacific depot in Salt Lake City, Utah, was a classic urban brownfield, polluted by decades of industrial use.
    Photo: The Boyer Company

    ArchWeek Photo

    With construction nearly complete, the Gateway in Salt Lake City will occupy the former Union-Pacific site.
    Photo: The Boyer Company


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