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The Challenge Of Brownfields: Regenerating Industrial Landscapes Requires New Approaches

March 2, 2000 -- A national movement is under way, combining the best efforts of communities, businesses and government, to clean up and reclaim the country's numerous pollution-scarred landscapes known as brownfields. These former industrial sites, often in poor areas, present complicated challenges and usually aren't toxic enough to receive massive federal aid. A varied group of University of Virginia faculty members, all affiliated with its environmentally-conscious School of Architecture, are closely involved with this national effort. Each site has its own history, problems and solutions, they point out. But a new public-private partnership is emerging, and today brownfield sites are even being looked at as community resources, the U.Va. experts say. The sites can combine the memory of the past and the dreams for the future of the community.

  • Landscape Architect Julie Bargmann and a New Kind of Vision

Challenging alternatives to the traditional cosmetic methods of "cap, cover, hog and haul" which have been the standard ways of dealing with contaminated landscapes, landscape architect Julie Bargmann is working with engineers and scientists, using emerging technologies such as phytoremediation (using plants that take up heavy metals into their bodies) and bioremediation (soil washing and soil flushing) in the design of earthen and planted forms. Her methods take into consideration the constant evolutionary flux of the landscape. Today toxic brownfield sites are being looked at as resources.

Bargmann has worked on and studied brownfield sites in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Michigan. She uses an "integrated holistic" approach to the design and ecology of reclaiming polluted land and waterways. This semester her students are studying design solutions for a polluted manufacturing site in Front Royal, Va. "Given the complex layers of industrial sites, I realize that I am giving myself and my students a tough assignment," Bargmann

said. "Imagine what the place was, and what it could be. Understand the industrial processes and

then remediation technologies. Scale over bureaucratic fences while fighting for design intentions. Invent a landscape for which there are hardly any precedents. In short, take a pile of contaminated dirt, figure it out, then make something with it."

For more information or interviews contact Julie Bargmann at (804) 924-6465.

  • The Institute for Sustainable Design

U.Va’s Institute for Sustainable Design is currently collaborating on developing regulations for reclaiming land destroyed by mountaintop mining in West Virginia. Diane M. Dale, director of the institute, is working on the legal issues with a team of soil scientists, geologists, hydrologists, civil and mining engineers to ensure new homesteading regulations will reestablish the land’s biodiversity and make these sites suitable for people to live on. "Demonstrating the value of applied academic research in moving the state of brownfield issues forward is integral to the goals of the Institute," Dale said.

The Institute for Sustainable Design was created by architecture professor William McDonough, one of the nation’s leading environmental visionaries and former dean of the school of architecture, to create viable alternatives to conventional design and practices. He advocates innovative design approaches and restorative action based on principles of sustainability that recognize the interdependence of ecology, equity, and economy.

For more information or interviews contact Diane Dale at (804) 924-6454.

  • The Institute for Environmental Negotiation

An important component in the remediation of a contaminated site is the community. Often the community is at odds about the degree and kinds of contamination, the goals for reclaiming the site and the procedures necessary to return the land to an economic and environmentally viable state. Frank Dukes, associate director of U.Va.’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, works with communities as an impartial environmental dispute resolution specialist. With a "Just-In-Time" grant through the EPA’s Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative, he is currently working with the town of Shenandoah, Va., in a national pilot program to envision future needs and uses for the Big Gem Brownfield project, an iron furnace that was in operation until 1910 in the center of the town.

For more information contact Frank Dukes at (804) 924-2041.

Contact: Jane Ford, (804) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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