Whether you are a developer or a prospective homeowner, deciding on the site of your next house or project is an important first step. By carefully choosing your site and the structure’s layout within the site you can create a successful project that is environmentally friendly, durable and cost effective.
Choosing Your Site: Redevelopment of Brownfields and Greyfields
There are many factors to consider when choosing your site. Logistics are important: consider the distance to existing resources, nearby hazards, job centers and transportation networks. But the classification of the site can also be very important, especially if it comes with incentives.
When possible, recycle an existing site. Reuse an abandoned site, whether it is a vacant residential lot, a brownfield or a greyfield.
Greyfields are abandoned or obsolete commercial sites that were once productive and have since sat idle and neglected. Not only are existing greyfields visual blights to the community, they represent a loss in tax revenue for the community and jobs for residents.
Brownfield sites are similar to greyfields but may also be subject to environmental contamination and in need of cleanup efforts. The Environmental Protection Agency provides guidelines on redeveloping a brownfield site as well as many other resources for dealing with brownfields. The EPA’s Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative (BERI) provides grants to cities developing local strategies.
Revitalization of greyfields and brownfields improve the community and come with cost advantages over previously undeveloped areas, commonly called greenfields. Financing options for reuse of these lands include community development block grants, federal grant funds, tax credits and tax exempt bond financing. HUD provides additional information on possible financing strategies in the Community Planning and Development pages.
Additional benefits of greyfield and brownfield revitalization include the availability of existing roads, utilities, and other infrastructure instead of using tax revenues and other public resources — or your own funds — to extend the same services to new development in outlying areas.
Designing Your Site: Low Impact Development
Low impact development (LID) is an environmentally sound and economically sustainable approach to addressing the impact of urbanization. It is an ecologically friendly approach to stormwater management. The LID approach aims to conserve the natural systems and hydrologic functions of land. Costs associated with land development and infrastructure costs can be reduced through LID practices.
LID enables runoff to be managed close to the source rather than being piped to a water management system. LID practices incorporate natural systems such as wetlands, streams and wooded areas into the design and functionality of the site. Design components of LID include minimization of impervious surfaces, maintenance of water flow paths and times, utilization of decentralized treatment practices.
Additional information on Low Impact Development.
Designing Your Site: Minimize Its Footprint
Consider increasing the density of your project. Increasing the density near the maximum allowable by local codes allows for smarter use of available resources and maximization of green space. Increasing density allows for more residents per area of land, decreasing travel distance from the development’s inner core.
The best example of this is infill development: building in an undeveloped or abandoned area that is already surrounded by high-density development and the associated services. Growing up, not out, preserves space and offers many other benefits such as less traffic congestion, reducing the need to expand infrastructure and curbing sprawl. Keep in mind that careful planning is necessary to prepare for growth and avoid any adverse effects of congestion due to increased density.
Resources for Additional Information
Brownfield Redevelopment Finance Tools
First Things First: Considering Green Land Development
Green Land Development: Save Money and the Environment
Green Land Development: Looking Beyond The Lot Line
Practice of Low Impact Development