Approach-Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center - Carnegie Mellon University

Project Approach

Based on the project objectives, the project approach has been organized in terms of three primary but interrelated activities:

Activity 1: Training -- Empowerment through Knowledge

Our primary goal is to promote brownfield development and its inherent environmental remedies, economic benefits and quality-of-life improvements; especially protection of public health. Working within PDC's existing infrastructure, we will develop classroom style and computer based training program to educate community decisionmakers about the strategies for brownfield development. Through venues offered by the PDC, we will collaborate with stakeholders, especially those challenged with smaller sites in neighborhoods, to review and explain technical documents; provide information about basic sceince, environmental policy, and other technical matters; help communities understand health risks associated with brownfield sites; provide information to assist in better understanding of environmental issues; and, facilitate brownfield development efforts by supporting community and other stakeholder involvement activities. Methods include enhancing PDC's webpage for brownfield relevant information, particpating in annual PDC events to provide brownfield related content, and conduct topic specific seminars.

Activity 2: Research -- Quantifying a Sustainable Brownfield

WPBC, in collaboration with the PDC, proposes to develop a carbon footprinting and life cycle assessment methodology for brownfield development, demonstrate its effectiveness, and propagate its use to a diverse group of brownfields stakeholders through training and outreach. This activity can be broken down into 6 steps:

  1. Develop a Brownfields Life Cycle Assessment Tool
    that uses economic input-output life cycle assessment methods and specific process models of neighborhod impacts. Results will represent long-term siting implications such as vehicle miles travelled, access to public transportation, and building efficiency, as well as compare brownfield development relative to greenfield development. Parameter development will focus on those accessible to and understood by a wide range of brownfield stakeholders to maximize proliferation of results and future use of the tool for decision support.
  2. Select Sites for Demonstration of Methodology
    from the PDC's extensive database and network of communities facing brownfield redevelopment challenges.
  3. Demonstrate, Troubleshoot and Validate Tool/Methodology
    to improve user-friendliness of the tool, its analytical capacity, and its accuracy, by examination of internal consistency and comparison with existing literature.
  4. Publish Results of Demonstration Sites
    to highlight the priority site location and development characteristics that drive climate change impacts for brownfield redevelopment.
  5. Disseminate and Publish Life Cycle Assessment Tool and Solicit Feedback
    by training PDC members to use the tool, and coordinating with USEPA to develop strategies for transferring tool to other brownfield stakeholders.

Activity 3:   Technical Assistance -- Site Selection through Prioritization

WPBC is currently developing a "Multi-Attribute Decision Method" (MADM) tool which allows governments and other stakeholders to prioritize their site selection process by weighting criteria of local and immediate interest (such as environmental and health, ease of development, social and economic considerations, and quality of life indicators) as they determine where to allocate funds. In years 1-3 of the grant period, our technical assistance will focus on the Site Prioritization Tool but emphasis will shift (years 4-5 of the grant period) to the life cycle assessment tool as it becomes more developed and ready for dissemination. The MADM tool that we have developed is a weighted and additive utility function that is used to evaluate five primary criteria:

  • Champion. We assess if there is a private sector champion behind a project or if the project is a priority of the municipality.
  • Developmental. In determining the 'developability' of a site, we consider end use, potential sources of funding, time to occupancy, the labor market and property ownership.
  • Socio-economic. To assess the socio-economic impact of a certain brownfield development, we consider economic potential, environmental justice, community support, and quality of life.
  • Environmental. Due to the difficulty of getting site specific environmental data related to potential contamination, we ask: a) if there have been any documented releases; b) if there is any perceived environmental contamination; and, c) have there been any environmental response actions, to assess the potential contamination's degree of enviromental impact (and perhaps implications for public health).
  • Infrastructure. We ask for feedback on the transportation system and public utilities.

The steps required to introduce and employ the Site Prioritization Tool in the target communities include the following:

Step 1: Inventory. We will assist a select number of communities in identifying, defining and inventorying brownfields, by having Main Street and Elm Street managers complete data forms.

Step 2: Site Scoring. Responses from the data forms will be scored, consistent with the scoring system developed by WPBC, then entered into a spreadsheet for further calculations.

Step 3: Weighting. Each of the five primary criteria must be weighted by the local decisionmakers, who may or may not be Main Street and Elm Street Managers, but have the authority to allocate resources. The decisionmakers must weight each criterion, and their sub-criteria, consistent with their priorities, on the scale of 0-1.

Step 4: Ranking. Each site will receive a 'score' for each of the five primary criteria. Independently and based based on the priorities of the decisionmakers, each criteria will receive a weight. For each site, the criterion score will be multiplied by the weight and the sum of the 'score*weight' values will result in a number that reflects the ranking of the site. Given that the site scoring is performed independently of the weighting, the final ranking should reflect those sites that, if developed, are more consistent with the priorities of the decisionmakers.