The challenges may seem overwhelming, but the financial, social and environmental benefits to redeveloping brownfields are immense.
They plague nearly every community: long-abandoned husks of buildings that stand like monuments to a time when sustainable building construction was misunderstood or ignored. They are old gas stations, dry cleaners and factories littered with industrial waste, soil pollution and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
There are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States. In addition to blighting neighborhoods and damaging the environment, contaminated sites contribute to:
- Poor housing quality,
- Lower physical activity, and
- Higher risk of disease.
This astounding number of sites remains, despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund celebrating its 40th birthday in 2020. For most of those 40 years, government incentives far outpaced both the economic demand to redevelop brownfields and the technical solutions to accomplish the task.
From my perspective, educating the industry about the effects of the below-slab environment on building health and its inhabitants has been a worthwhile pursuit. Brownfield sites present some of the greatest challenges in this realm, but also the greatest opportunities. My new focus on the brownfield sector has only broadened my sense of purpose from not just the building envelope itself, but the greater positive impacts brownfield redevelopment can have on the broader community – from investment to greater human health and productivity outcomes.
The key drivers of brownfield development: government incentives to undertake, economic demand to redevelop, and technological advances to redevelop America’s vast brownfield landscape are now more aligned than ever. In this article, I explain how brownfield redevelopment is no longer an environmental imperative, but also may finally be economically attractive, too.
5 Tips and Tricks for Sealing the Terminating Edges of the Vapor Barrier
Your site preparation team has graded your foundation and maybe tamped the earth or placed a granular fill subbase. You’ve rolled out tens of thousands of square feet of your below-slab vapor barrier, the highly-engineered plastic that will protect your slab from the volatile environment below your building. You took great care to overlap the material at the seams by at least six inches, sealing each penetration with diligent detail to prevent any water vapor intrusion around pipes and other conduits.
You get to the edge of your foundation: now what?
Photo courtesy of Chavez Concrete Contractors, Inc.
Despite its cost being measured in mere cents per square foot, project designers, contractors and building owners often disregard a high-performance under-slab vapor barrier. Yet, failing to use this vital material may be the best illustration in the construction industry of “a penny wise and a pound foolish” – unnecessarily risking costly consequences and potentially years of legal squabbling over liability.
Here are 10 critical reasons why you should always use a high-performance vapor barrier, no matter the project:
We have all probably heard of or endured a personal connection to a familiar story: the victim of lung cancer who “never smoked a day in their life.”
For starters, is it Class I or Class 1? Fun fact: it’s actually Class I. I get asked by both homeowners and contractors alike what a Class I vapor retarder is. If you’ve been researching a DIY crawl space encapsulation project, it is possible you’ve stumbled across this reference as well. In this blog post I’ll answer what a Class I vapor retarder is, but I’m also going to use this space to explain why a Class I vapor retarder, although referenced in code as a threshold, may not be satisfactory for your project. To get you started on the right foot, we’ve made it easy for you to look-up the current version of code governing your jurisdiction.
Before you consider chemical pre-treatment of termiticides on your next home building project, consider this case of the unintended consequences of pesticides from the commercial agriculture sector.
Are you wondering what your next home improvement project should be? A lot of homeowners spring for aesthetic upgrades when the biggest bang for your buck may come from your crawl space. Frequently an afterthought, fixing your crawl space can help ensure a safe structural foundation and great indoor air quality to complement many other home upgrades you may be considering.
Floating Cow Patties Are a Thing of the Past for W&N Development
The Vander Linden brothers just have to glance up the street to see how the pour is going. Are the concrete trucks stacking up? Are the concrete trucks rotating in-and-out every 10 minutes?