- Dr Katie Williams (Department of Architecture), Project Manager, OISD: CITIES
- Dr Carol Dair (Department of Architecture), Research Associate, OISD: CITIES
- total grant value: £75,000
- time duration: 2000-2003
The overall aim of the research was to ascertain whether urban brownfield developments in England are being designed and built to achieve sustainability and if not to explain why this is the case. A sustainable development is one that has been produced in a sustainable way and provides a physical environment to enable people living and working in that environment to live their lives sustainably. The objectives were:
- To determine what is meant by a 'sustainable brownfield development' and to define the stakeholders involved
- To investigate brownfied developments to ascertain what elements of sustainability are considered, not considered or rejected by the stakeholders involved and why
- To identify which stakeholder groups are most successful in realising their sustainability agendas
- To contribute to practice and theory by identifying the means to improve the integration of the three elements of sustainability (environmental, social and economic)
The issue of brownfield land is very topical. The UK Government has made the sustainable re-use of land an important element of its sustainability strategy. Currently, in England, over 60 percent of all new development takes place on previously developed land. This scale of land re-use offers many opportunities for those involved in development projects to provide a sustainable built environment. There is, however, little information on whether such sites are being developed sustainably or what roles and influences different stakeholders in development projects
have in realising outcomes. To address this gap, the research looked at five case studies of recently developed brownfield sites across England and traced the decisions and actions that led to the final built projects. A comparative case study methodology was used, and data was collected using a combination of methods. To guide the investigation a sustainable brownfield model was developed from a literature review. This detailed the stakeholders who should be involved in developments and identified what they should be aiming to achieve in terms of sustainability. The sustainability of the developments was assessed by comparing the model with current practice. Evidence of stakeholder action, and their reasons for action, was gathered from local planning authority documentation and from interviews with key stakeholders.
Objective 1: The sustainable brownfield model developed for the research clarified the key stakeholders in land re-use. It established key sustainability objectives for land re-use, and gives practical examples of how they might be achieved.
Objective 2: Overall the achievement of sustainability across the case studies was mixed. Developments achieved, for example: good accessibility with infrastructure to support commercial activities; employment opportunities; local service provision; viable projects; a mix of housing types; and the protection of cultural heritage and biodiversity. The most common shortcomings, which affected four of the five case study sites, related to the buildings themselves. They were not designed for flexibility and security and neither were they water or energy efficient. The absence of these features has long-term implications for sustainability. The key drivers of sustainability were requirements from regulators, clients and funders. The main barriers identified were stakeholder apathy towards sustainability; cost or perceived costs of sustainable buildings; lack of demand for sustainable developments; lack of power to enforce sustainable options; and resistance to the use of sustainable technologies and materials.
Objective 3: The most influential stakeholders were the landowners, developers and their investors, councillors and end users, but no single group had overriding power to determine the sustainability of a development. There were individual champions of sustainability but they were not confined to one specific group.
Objective 4: The sustainable brownfield model may be useful for those trying to implement policy and guidance on sustainable brownfield development for it translates imprecise policies and complex theories into site level practices. To improve the integration of sustainability into projects the findings suggest that what may be required are: initiatives to stimulate widespread demand from end users (e.g. house buyers, public bodies and companies) and to raise the profile of sustainable development amongst stakeholders through, for example, stronger regulations and fiscal measures to enforce and encourage the uptake of sustainable options; better education and training to improve knowledge, skills and competency in sustainable best practice; easily accessible, reliable information on sustainable technologies and materials; and, possibly, the introduction of new obligations amongst service providers for the future maintenance of new sustainable systems.
Selected publications and conference papers:
Dair, C and Williams, K (forthcoming) 'Sustainable land re-use: the influence of the different stakeholders in achieving sustainable brownfield developments in England' accepted for publication in Environment and Planning A (Jan 2005)
Ganser, R and Williams, K (forthcoming) ‘Delivering Brownfield Development: Are we aiming at the right targets? A European Comparison’, accepted by European Planning Studies (May 2005)
Williams, K and Dair, C (2005) ‘Achieving sustainable development on brownfield sites: key research findings and their implications for practice’ CABERNET 2005: The International Conference on Managing Urban Land: Belfast 13-15 April 2005
Dair, C. and Williams, K (2004) ‘Global pressures for sustainable cities and towns: brownfield developments a pathway to sustainability?’ Sixth Symposium of the International Urban Planning and Environment Association, Global Pressures on Local Autonomy: Challengers to Urban Planning for Sustainability and Development, 4-8th September, University of Louisville, KY, USA
Dair, C and Williams, K (2004) ‘Assessing Sustainability at the Development Site Scale’ Planning Research Conference, Kings College: University of Aberdeen 31st March to 2nd April 2004
Williams, K and Dair, C (2003) ‘Five barriers to sustainable brownfield development’, Town and County Planning, Vol 72 No 11
Williams, K. and Dair, C (2003) Sustainable Urban Brownfield Development in England: Fact or Fiction proceedings of the Planning Research Conference, Wadham College: Oxford 8th 10th April 2003 www.brookes.ac.uk/schools/planning/conference/papers.htm
Dair, C. and Williams, K (2002) ‘Brownfield Land: Achieving the Sustainable Re-use of Land’, Fifth Symposium of the International Urban Planning and Environment Association on Creating Sustainable Urban Environments: Future Forms for City Living, (2002) OCSD: Oxford
Dair, C and Williams, K (2001) 'Sustainable Brownfield Re-use- Who Should Be Involved, and What Should They Be Doing?’ Town and County Planning, Vol 70 No 6,
Dr Katie Williams,
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