University to Determine How to Redevelop Brownfields in a Green Way

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Environmental Science and Policy a five-year, $750,000 grant to identify best management practices for redeveloping sites in a sustainable manner, gauge the benefits, and get the information to the public and policymakers, according to a Sept. 23 press release.

"Brownfields clean-up has been a popular program for a number of years, but more and more people are asking, how can we do this in a more sustainable way?" said Susan Kaplan, who conducts outreach and research activities at the institute. "Instead of cleaning up a contaminated site that had a toxic chemical on it and building a conventional office building, how can we redevelop that site in a way that reduces or actually prevents pollution now and into the future? It's a new, proactive kind of thinking."

Institute researchers at UIC, teaming up with two outside technical advisers and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will define what it means to turn a brownfield into a new green development in a way that sustains the site as eco-friendly.

The team will analyze successful developments around the country, highlighting the sustainable components and the underlying policies and practices that enable the developments to be built. Other parts of the study will focus primarily on Midwest sites. Lifecycles of sustainable components will be analyzed, along with ways to maximize energy efficiency and all of the environmental, economic, and community health benefits of redeveloping a brownfield in a sustainable manner.

"There is a variety of information available, but there's a need to bring it together," said Kaplan.

The institute will administer the grant. Members of the brownfields sustainability consortium will meet twice a year while working in sub-project groups. A Web site detailing best management practices will be among the first public offerings, along with an easy-to-use guidebook and eventually a workshop.

In addition to Kaplan, project collaborators include institute director Thomas Theis, economist Joshua Linn, and environmental and occupational health expert Serap Erdal, all with UIC; urban planning and brownfields expert Christopher De Sousa of UW-Milwaukee; economist John Braden, and pathobiologist Marilyn Ruiz, both of UIUC; St. Louis-based architect Dan Hellmuth, who specializes in sustainable design; and Minneapolis-based green urban redevelopment consultant Michael Krause.

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