Carnegie Mellon's Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center (WPBC) is home to researchers providing communities with the tools they need for the clean-up and development of abandoned industrial or commercial properties. And the researchers recently got an important tool of their own — a sizeable grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"The WPBC was established in 1997 and since that time it has been a resource to communities in Western Pennsylvania, helping them to realize the environmental, economic and social value of these old industrial or commercial properties," said Deb Lange, who is executive director of Carnegie Mellon's Steinbrenner Institute.
She added, "This grant will help us to continue providing the guidance to overcome the barriers and work through the challenges that might impede clean-up and redevelopment."
The money, slated for allocation over the next five years, will also fund development of a new interactive tool for the assessment of carbon footprints, conventional air emissions and energy impacts from brownfield development.
With the support of the EPA and in partnership with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, Lange said the WPBC will become a resource to more communities across Pennsylvania.
"In addition to increasing the geographic extent of our outreach, we are now afforded the opportunity to create computer-based decision support tools that will help to optimize the allocation of limited resources that can be applied to new developments and assess the 'carbon footprint' of land development decisions," said Lange, describing projects that will result from the $900,000 grant.
While brownfield development provides the opportunity to remediate old and potentially contaminated properties, it also promotes development that is consistent with the needs of the community in which the underutilized property might sit.
"Community stakeholders are often afraid of the environmental problems that might be associated with a site and may therefore fail to take any proactive steps to recover the property," Lange explained. "Education provided by the WPBC will help to mitigate the environmental and regulatory fears of the community members and our computer based tools will assist in expedited, thorough and environmentally friendly decision making for land development options."