Carnegie Mellon University
Challenges, Objectives and Benefits

Project Challenges, Objectives and Benefits


Within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there are large, clearly identified brownfield sites, many of which are the remnants of the industrial base that was the foundation for the state's past economic growth. But there also exists with this Commonwealth, uncounted multitudes of smaller brownfield sites, ranging in size from one to many parcels but generally speaking of a scale under 10 acres. These sites include old gas stations with still un-remediated underground storage tanks; old school buildings with asbestos; long-vacant, smaller industrial properties with a host of environmental issues; and others.

While larger mill sites and related properties tend to be dealt with by regional economic entities, often times these smaller brownfield sites go unattended to for years. Lack of funding and an obvious "economy of scale" interest in the larger sites makese these smaller sites the unwanted step-child of the brownfields effort. However, their often-times location within the core community of a region contributes to a perception of decline and decay in the central business district or an adjoining residential, industrial or institutional district. Thus the reality that not only do these sites contribute to the environmental decline of the community in which they are located, but they contribute to a perception of blight and decay in the core of a community that often impacts the quality of live evaluation of the larger region by those who may be looking at the larger brownfield site.


The primary objectives of this project forms the basis for the approach of this project. These primary objectives are threefold:

  • Training -- Empowerment through Knowledge: Initially, the Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center (WPBC) will work with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC) to build the capacity of the Main Street (downtown) and Elm Street (neighborhoods proximate to downtown) managers that are a part of the PDC across Pennsylvania.
  • Research -- Quantifying the Sustainable Brownfield: Using the Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIOLCA) model created at Carnegie Mellon along with information about specific neighborhood processes, we will develp an interactive analysis tool that allows the assessment of carbon footprints, conventional air emissions and energy impacts from brownfield development.
  • Technical Assistance -- Site Selection through Prioritization: Using a Multi-Attribute Decision Making (MADM) tool developed at Carnegie Mellon, we will help communities prioritize their resources, both time and money, consistent with the needs of the community.

The secondary objectives are:

  • Target small sites in smaller communities. PDC has an established network of Main Street and Elm Street Managers that are challenged by smaller brownfields in their communities. WPBC will use this community as initial participants for training, application and validation of our life cycle analysis and carbon footprint methodology. We will then expand to a broader audience of brownfield development stakeholders.
  • Develop innovative tools that help to quantify 'sustainability' based on state-of-the-art technology. We will deploy a developed site prioritization tool while creating a new tool to assess the life cycle of carbon emissions, conventional air emissions and energy impacts from brownfield versus greenfield development and a range of building development standards.
  • Transfer the project work products through computer based tools and effective networking. We will further improve our site prioritization tool to make it readily useable by communities across the country and we will develop the brownfield life cycle assessment tool for ultimate distribution amongst the broader brownfield stakeholders in communities across the United States.

Due to the wide range of socio-economic characteristics of the communities currently involved in the Main Street Program, it is difficult to clearly define the demographic profile until the project specific communities are selected. It should be noted here however that it is anticipated that most, if not all the communities that will participate in this effort will fall in various categories that include some degree of community "distress". Generally speaking, Main Street program participants exhibit various degrees of physical decay, higher than normal rates of business district vacancy, above average unemployment rates, and concentrations of poverty in nearby residential neighborhoods. As an integral part of this effort, PDC will commit to completing and providing a detailed community profile on those communities that move forward from the educational into the technical assistance phase of the effort.


Through the training and technical assistance components of this project, we will address the issue of dealing with smaller brownfield sites in communities within Pennsylvania, many of which are currently being supported by the Commonwelath's Main Street Program. We believe that the results can be generalized and transferred for large sites and for brownfield sites in other parts of the US. A brief, unscientific survey of current Main Street Managers within Pennsylvania revealed that many of them have multiple sites of the size and character referred to earlier. While these Main Street desginated communities are both large and small, urban, suburban and rural, they all share a common critical factor. They all have in place a professional, full-time business district or neighborhood revitalization coordinator and a local revitalization organization that could, and as will proposed, should serve as the catalyst for the remediation of these smaller brownfield sites. Given the proper tools and resources, as evidenced by the Main Street programs they currently operate, many of these smaller sites could be worked into the annual work plans of these local entities. In strategic partnership with organizations such as the WPBC and PDC, these local organizations could take the steps necessary to affect remediation of these sites.

Through the research component of this proposal, we will help bridge an important knowledge gap between sustainability and brownfield development: that of quantifying the life cycle implications for site selection given any brownfield development scenario. While brownfield redevelopment is generally recognized as promoting sustainability methods for quantifying life cycle impacts, especially climate change mitigation associated with brownfield development do not currently exist.

Activity Anticipated Outcomes Anticipated Outputs
Training -- Empowerment through Knowledge Main Street and Elm Street communities will gain a better understanding of brownfields and a capacity to apply for State and Federal funding

- 'Brownfield Hub' on existing PDC webpage

- Participation in PDC annual meeting in each of 3 geographic sector

- Educate 30-50 new PDC managers/year

- Educate 100-200 revitalization specialist/year

- Targeted training for 100-200 managers/year

Research -- Quantifying a Sustainable Brownfield New capability to quantify the life cycle sustainability impacts of proposed Brownfield Developments and Green Neighborhood relative to other developments, including carbon footprints.

- Spreadsheet for assessing the life cycle impacts of brownfield development, including greenhouse gas emissions, that can be used by stakeholder across the county

- 1+ doctoral students and interns

Technical Assistance -- Site Selection through Prioritization Stakeholders equipped with tools to make expedited, sustainable and equitable brownfield development decisions

- Refined and readily transferable process for site prioritization using a computer based, multi-attribute decision making tool, that can be used by stakeholder across the county

- Interns