We all appreciate the importance of caring for our environment. However, despite our best efforts, including recycling and buying local, drastic intervention is required to truly make a difference.

John Rodgman

John Rodgman

In the property development industry in particular, where land availability is one of the most prominent issues facing the future of construction, taking care of the land that is left should be the top priority for every business.

An important first step is environmental remediation; the process whereby contaminants and other harmful materials are removed from an environment. By enhancing land for the purposes of redevelopment, the industry can become much more sustainable and responsive to current property needs.

For centuries, prior to the enactment of today’s environmental laws and regulations, it was seen as common practice for companies to simply release hazardous chemicals and materials into the environment, contaminating both land and water. Sites would gradually become polluted, either as a by-product of material production, or due to direct contamination caused by hazardous work conducted on site.

Regardless as to how the pollution was caused, developers are now required by law to address it, returning these sites to their natural state for future use. Environmental remediation looks to do this by eliminating pollutants or contaminants within any section of land, from soil to surface water, ground water, sediment, and more. Remediation becomes necessary should the environment be at risk of significant damage, or should those who come into contact with the site be at risk of possible harm. No land can be re-purposed while subject to hazardous chemicals and materials.

Before starting any remediation project, the site is assessed and mapped out to understand the type and severity of any contaminants present. Information on the characteristics of the site, as well as the location of identified contaminants, is also collected, allowing the most effective remediation methods to be selected.

In line with local and national regulations, environmental remediation will employ a variety of technologies for effective contaminant containment and removal. Soil excavation functions are simpler remedial techniques; however, the collected contaminants can often require aeration or oxidation before being dumped. Meanwhile, the ‘pump and treat’ technique pumps out contaminated groundwater, allowing for its treatment and safe disposal. Perhaps the most common, and widely understood, form of contamination testing is the testing and removal of asbestos, a cancer-causing mineral commonly used within construction until 1999.

With a lack of available land being one of the most significant barriers to property development across the country, environmental remediation is a fundamental consideration when building on brownfield sites, which require an assessment and thorough clean-up before being deemed fit for redevelopment, especially should the land use change from industrial to residential.

Despite typically being more expensive than ‘greenfield’ sites to purchase due to leniency in gaining planning permission, these sites are often far closer to urban centres, making them more desirable to both homeowners and businesses. Also, with the government pushing for the development of brownfield land, as well as environmental groups putting increasing pressure on councils to protect greenfield land, remediated brownfield land is becoming increasingly viable each day, offering a more direct route to optimally located developments for many years to come.

For flourishing and forward-thinking businesses, environmental remediation and the redevelopment of brownfield sites is a profitable and sustainable path forward.

John Rodgman is managing director of geotechnical drilling firm Borehole Solutions