Building on a Brownfield and Other Federally Designated Sites (2 Credits)  

Building on a brownfield or federally designated site can be challenging and resource-intensive, but it can also revitalize blighted areas, lead to economic growth, and restore environmental quality. Careful planning, compliance with regulations, and community engagement are key components of successful redevelopment projects in these areas. 

Building on brownfields or other federally designated sites can offer several benefits. First off, it promotes sustainable development by reusing previously developed land, reducing the pressure to convert greenfield areas. This helps protect natural habitats and preserves open spaces. 

Redeveloping brownfield sites can revitalize communities by transforming abandoned or underutilized areas into vibrant, functional spaces. This can increase property values, create jobs, and improve local infrastructure. 

From an environmental perspective, redeveloping brownfields can mitigate the risks associated with contamination. Cleaning up and restoring these sites can prevent further harm to the environment and surrounding ecosystems, enhancing overall environmental quality. 

Moreover, building on federally designated sites may come with financial incentives. Governments often provide grants, tax credits, or other financial assistance to encourage the redevelopment of these sites. This supports the developers and aligns with broader governmental goals of sustainable development and environmental protection. 

Building on a brownfield or other federally designated site involves a complex process of redeveloping land that may be contaminated or environmentally compromised due to previous industrial, commercial, or other activities. Brownfields are typically abandoned or underutilized properties with the potential for redevelopment, but their reuse is hindered by real or perceived environmental contamination. Federal designations, such as Superfund sites or other specialized programs, may be applied to specific sites with significant environmental issues. Here’s an overview of what can be required to build on such sites: 

Site Assessment. The first step is to conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment to determine the site’s extent and nature of contamination. This often involves soil and groundwater sampling and various environmental tests to identify hazardous substances present. 

Here are the steps in a comprehensive environmental assessment: 

Site History and Preliminary Assessment. Gather historical information about the site, including past land use, potential contaminants, and any previous assessments or clean-up activities. 

Here’s how to access this information: 

  1. Government Records and Databases. Check with local and state environmental agencies for records related to the site. Environmental protection agencies often maintain databases with information on contaminated sites, including past assessments and cleanup activities. 
  2. Property Records and Land Use History. Visit local planning or zoning offices to access property records and land use history. These records may provide insights into the site’s previous uses and any associated environmental concerns. 
  3. Historical Aerial Imagery.  Access historical aerial imagery of the site. This can help identify changes in land use over time and may reveal structures or activities that were present in the past.  
  4. Public Records Requests. File public records requests with relevant government agencies to obtain documents related to the site’s history. This may include reports, permits, violations, or correspondence related to environmental issues. 
  5. Online Environmental Databases. Explore online environmental databases that aggregate information on contaminated sites. These databases may include details about the site’s environmental history and cleanup efforts. 

Remember to cross-reference information from multiple sources to ensure accuracy. The combination of archival research, government records, interviews, and professional assessments can provide a comprehensive understanding of the historical context of a brownfield site. 

Site Inspection. Physically inspecting the site to identify potential sources of contamination, such as storage tanks, hazardous materials, or waste disposal areas. 

Sampling and Analysis. Collect soil, water, and air samples from various locations on the site and analyze these samples in a laboratory to determine the presence and concentration of contaminants. 

Risk Assessment. Evaluate the potential risks to human health and the environment based on the identified contaminants and their concentrations and assess the likelihood of exposure and potential impacts. 

Remediation Options. Identify and evaluate different remediation options to address the contamination. Consider technologies such as soil excavation, bioremediation, chemical treatment, or containment.  

Regulatory Compliance. Ensure that the assessment and proposed remediation plans comply with local, state, and federal environmental regulations. Developers must adhere to federal, state, and local regulations governing environmental cleanup and site redevelopment. Federal regulations like the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) which establishes cleanup standards and liability frameworks for Superfund sites. 

Community Engagement. Engage with the local community to address concerns and gather input on the assessment and remediation plans. 

Cost Estimation. Estimate the costs associated with the assessment, remediation, and any ongoing monitoring or maintenance. 

Report and Documentation. Compile all findings, assessments, and recommendations into a comprehensive report. Document the entire assessment process, including methodologies and results. 

Implementation and Monitoring. If remediation is approved, oversee the implementation of the chosen remediation strategy. Establish a monitoring plan to track the effectiveness of the remediation over time. 

Closure and Redevelopment. Once the site meets environmental standards, obtain regulatory closure. Facilitate the redevelopment of the brownfield site for a new, safe use. 

Financing and Incentives. Building on brownfields often requires substantial financial resources for cleanup and redevelopment. Federal, state, or local governments may offer various financial incentives, grants, and tax credits to encourage redevelopment and offset the costs. 

To learn about federal, state, and local incentives, grants, and tax credits for building on brownfields or federally designated sites, you can take the following steps: 

  1. Research Government Websites. Federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) often provide information on brownfield redevelopment incentives. State environmental or economic development agencies may offer specific programs and incentives. Check their websites for relevant information. 
  2. Contact Local Authorities. Contact local planning departments, economic development offices, or environmental agencies. They can provide information on local incentives and may guide you in applying. 
  3. Brownfield Redevelopment Programs. Some states and municipalities have specific brownfield redevelopment programs. Look for programs that provide financial assistance, tax incentives, or grants to clean and redevelop contaminated sites. 
  4. Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Organizations. Local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations may have information on available incentives for building on designated sites. They can connect you with resources and provide guidance. 
  5. Attend Workshops and Seminars. Many government agencies and non-profit organizations organize workshops and seminars on brownfield redevelopment. Attend these events to gain insights into available incentives and connect with experts in the field. 
  6. Networking. Join industry groups, forums, or networking events related to real estate development and brownfield redevelopment. Networking can help you learn from others who have experience in similar projects. 
  7. Online Databases and Tools. Some online databases aggregate information on incentives and grants for various types of development projects. Explore these resources to find relevant programs for your brownfield redevelopment. 
  8. Professional Assistance.  Consider hiring professionals, such as environmental consultants or real estate attorneys, specializing in brownfield redevelopment. They can help navigate the complexities of regulations and incentives. The availability of incentives and programs can vary by location and over time, so staying updated with local authorities and experts for the most accurate and current information is essential. 

While building on brownfield or federally designated sites can be challenging, it has its rewards, including promoting sustainability, community revitalization, and environmental remediation, and often comes with financial incentives, making it a win-win for owners and the broader community. To learn more about how The Austin Company can assist you in identifying and developing a brownfield site, contact Brandon Talbert, Austin Consulting Managing Director at: 

Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses (5 Credits).

Locate the project within ¼ mile of defined density, including residential. In urban planning, defined density refers to the concentration of buildings or people in a specific area. The idea is that higher density can lead to more efficient land use, reduced dependence on cars, and increased walkability. This can contribute to a more sustainable and resource-efficient community. By being close to residential areas, the project may promote a mix of land uses, reduce the need for long commutes, and foster a sense of community. 

Access to Quality Transit (5 Credits).

Locate the project within ¼ mile of bus stops and ½ mile of rapid transit or train. Building an industrial plant near public transportation is a sustainability win for several reasons. First, it promotes the use of public transportation, reducing the carbon footprint associated with commuting. This cuts down on individual emissions, which is great for the environment. Additionally, it eases traffic congestion, making the daily commute smoother for everyone involved. 

From an economic standpoint, it makes the industrial plant more accessible to a larger pool of potential employees, potentially diversifying the workforce. Plus, it encourages employees to use sustainable transportation options, aligning with the broader goal of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. 

Bicycle Facilities (1 Credit).

Locate the project within 200 yards of a bicycle network. This encourages employees to pedal their way to work, promoting a healthier lifestyle and reducing the carbon footprint associated with commuting. It’s advantageous for both the environment and personal well-being. 

Reduced Parking Footprint (1 Credit).

Reduce parking by 20% below requirements. The intention of this credit is to minimize the environmental harms associated with parking facilities, including automobile dependence, land consumption, and rainwater runoff. By providing access to sustainable transportation, walkability, and bicycle networks, these strategies potentially reduce the required amount of parking spots needed. 

Green Vehicles (1 Credit).

Designate 5% parking for green vehicles, including providing electric charging for 2% of parking. The intention of this credit is to reduce pollution by promoting alternatives to conventionally fueled automobiles. Latest versions of LEED allow EV ready spaces reducing initial costs for the owner and allowing it to be easily implemented in the future. 


The strategic placement of a facility can significantly mitigate its environmental impact. Proximity to raw materials minimizes transportation emissions, reducing the plant’s carbon footprint. Likewise, thoughtful consideration of transportation modes and opting for energy-efficient methods contribute to the sustainability equation. A well-located plant cuts down on logistical complexities and fosters a symbiotic relationship with its surroundings, integrating seamlessly into the local ecosystem.  


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