GSD Course Bulletin - Fall 2011

06323: Brownfields Practicum: Regeneration and Reuse of Brownfield Lands (SCI 0632300)

Landscape Architecture
Lecture - 4 credits
Tuesday 8:30 - 11:30   Gund 318

Course Tools for this course (Canvas)

Niall Kirkwood

Course Description

"A Brownfields Site is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence, or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant"Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act January 2002AbstractThis course concerns the reclamation of sites altered by prior industrial or commercial uses and in particular those that are derelict, environmentally hazardous and located within neighborhoods and/or close to residential communities. The subject matter addresses recent advances in the legal, regulatory, environmental, economic and community landscape as well as the remediation of despoiled land in a manner that reclaims and redevelops these sites for future sustainable uses. Of interest to the instructor is how these advances can inform more progressive and creative planning and design work, and conversely, to what extent sustainable planning and design work can direct the regeneration and reuse of these urban environments. Under consideration this semester is the class of sites commonly known as brownfields. OverviewIn the preface to the classic publication- Brownfields, Cleaning and Reusing Contaminated Properties by Charles Bartsch and Elizabeth Collaton published fourteen years ago in 1997, the authors broadly describe the background and key issues of brownfields as follows: "Virtually every city in the nation's older industrial regions, no matter its size, grapples with the challenge of unused manufacturing facilities and other industrial sites. These properties include the shuttered steel mills in western Pennsylvania and on Chicago's southeast side; mining operations in Montana and Arizona; closed timber mills that dot many small towns in Washington and Oregon; and declining defense contractors, metal plating factories, machine shops, and chemical plants in communities from Michigan to Mississippi. Local public officials, economic development practitioners, and plant owners who have sought to revitalize fallow industrial properties face a daunting challenge: contamination of the surrounding land and water, buildings and equipment. Public concern about health effects from hazardous chemicals, stricter environmental laws, and changing private-sector development priorities have made it increasingly difficult for communities to restore and reuse former manufacturing sites. The precise magnitude of site contamination is unknown, but it is no doubt pervasive and significant, especially in areas with long manufacturing histories."Broadly described as waste, despoiled and contaminated, brownfields continue to be of the highest priority in the development and regeneration of the nation's urban centers. The U.S. General Accounting Office originally estimated back in 1996 that there were 450,000 brownfields in the nation, listing 7,733 in the State of Massachusetts and 395 within the City of Boston. Of significance to this class is the changing climate for the reuse of brownfields where a mixture of community, public health and sustainability development concerns are now replacing solely regulatory and economic factors as a driving force. Three broad strategies have served to date as approaches to Brownfield restoration. The first was the desire to simply restore brownfield land or property to its original pristine state. This strategy relied on legislation and regulations to direct restorative action. This was unquestionably the most costly strategy and generally took the most time to implement. Second, a market approach rooted simply in the restored economic value of the land or property. This was the governmental strategy to clean brownfields. This approach required private owners to initiate action to determine the type, location and concentration of contaminants. This was a costly process for the property owner, and was most likely the primary reason why many brownfields were not redeveloped at that time. The third approach is based on community redevelopment. This is based on the principle that current community residents did not contribute to the contamination and did not receive any benefits derived from the activity that generated the contamination. In addition they were limited in their ability to improve their community due to the barriers associated with the contaminated land. This strategy is based on the need to make communities more livable and sustainable for existing residents and to provide more commerce and homes in the community.Other more recent approaches have included brownfields in their makeup including regional design and smart growth and the regeneration of former infrastructure and urban districts especially transportation hubs, port lands and waterfronts, and the development of Department of Defense facilities, especially decommissioned military bases.Course ObjectivesThe redevelopment of brownfields presents a unique opportunity to marry environmental, economic, public health and social goals within a single problem-solving strategy or set of strategies, and to join diverse constituencies such as the environmental lobby, private and public community developers in the process. This class introduces students to the foundations of brownfields redevelopment as well as the science and applied technology of waste site cleanup, and connects brownfields redevelopment to broader issues in environmental policy and planning such as environmental justice, public health and sustainable development. The class will review the current regulatory, economic, environmental, community, public health and development conditions of brownfields, through site visits, classroom presentations and discussions with relevant stakeholders from federal, state, city and community agencies, as well as other professionals from the legal, financial, and environmental engineering private sector. Through a practice component (the practicum) class members working in teams apply this general brownfields knowledge to particular challenges in the field on behalf of a city government in the local area and gain hands-on experience in applied environmental and economic development research and analysis, community brownfield practices, and sustainability planning.Class MeetingsThe first part of the course will consist of a series of class presentations and discussions, each on a theme of central interest to the overall topic and introducing a range of concepts and different orientations towards the material. The purpose is to seek out an understanding of the common language and set of development frameworks concerned with brownfield sites. The class meetings will also introduce current literature and resources associated with reclamation of this type. The second part of the course will focus on further work on the development of the practicum. Practicum AssignmentA defining feature of this class is the development and completion of brownfield development proposals for sites located in nearby City of Somerville, Massachusetts. Through a rigorous practice component, student teams apply their general brownfield knowledge to particular challenges in the field and gain hands-on experience in applied environmental and economic development research and analysis, community practice, and sustainability planning and design. In this way class members will be exposed to brownfield challenges and constraints alongside creative inquiry and innovative design opportunities. A handout will be given during the first meeting on the precise requirements of the practicum assignment. Work will be conducted in teams, and all studies will be accompanied by documentation and thorough research. Individual tutorials will be held out of class time to es