When brownfield sites are remediated and returned to productive use, the social impact at the community level is significant alongside positive outcomes for the environment 

Environmental Impact

  • Curbing urban sprawl by focusing on land redevelopment projects in urban areas, therefore limiting further mineralisation of soils and the loss of biodiversity and arable lands.

  • Tackling security and sanitary issues through the comprehensive and long-term treatment of environmental liabilities.

  • Controlling carbon footprint through the use of in-situ and on-site remediation treatment, the reuse of waste material during the construction process and the delivery of energy-efficient buildings.

Curbing urban sprawl

Few people used to wonder about the financial and ecological costs of urban sprawl. Yet today, all stakeholders are becoming aware that these costs - often borne by the taxpayer (setting up networks, infrastructures, remote public transport, etc.) - as well as the protection of biodiversity must be integrated before development projects are undertaken. When all these costs are taken into account, brownfield sites often become good alternatives to sprawl developments, particularly when they are located in city centres and are therefore already connected to all the necessary facilities.

To achieve the objective of "zero net artificialisation of land", it is essential to reuse existing sites, particularly brownfield sites. Over the past decades, such sites have been used for various and often polluting activities and remediation is therefore an essential part of the requalification process. It allows for an efficient management of the sources of pollutants and makes these sites compatible with their future use. Remediation is therefore essential to limit the mineralisation of soil and the associated loss of biodiversity and arable lands.

 

Leveraging environmentally-friendly remediation approaches

The public works sector generates approximately 3.6 million tonnes of non-hazardous waste and 1.9 million tonnes of hazardous waste each year (Source SOeS - 2014). Remediation projects, in particular the reconversion of industrial brownfield sites, require the management of large quantities of polluted soil.

It is often said that "the best waste is the one that is not produced". Thanks to in-situ and on-site remediation techniques, it is possible to avoid evacuating the soil from the site and therefore limit the generation of waste. In 2019, 67% of polluted lands were thus treated in-situ and on site (source: European Environmental Agency, 1994 -2019: Progress in management of contaminated sites).

In addition to limiting the production of non-hazardous and hazardous waste, in-situ and on-site remediation techniques limit the input of backfill materials, in line with the circular economy principles. Several million tonnes of aggregates are saved each year, not to mention the CO2 impact that would have been generated by the trucks transporting the soil.

 

Social Impact

  • Removing blight and reversing negative perceptions by creating homes (affordable and market rate) and bringing back economic activity and jobs in former derelict areas.
  • Improving public health by reducing exposure to harmful chemicals and poor air quality associated with former industrial sites and increasing well-being by creating compact and well-connected mixed used neighbourhoods
  • Restoring social and economic dynamism from previously idle sites, in cooperation with local authorities, thus avoiding the cost associated with building and maintaining new infrastructure.

     

Improving public health & removing blight

It has been demonstrated that contaminated brownfield sites are linked to increased health risks resulting from exposure to harmful chemicals, dangerous toxins and unsafe environmental conditions. This is disproportionately the case for residents in deprived neighbourhoods. Brownfield sites also have a negative impact on the well-being of a community as they generate negative perceptions (blight, illegal activities, fly-tipping, etc.) and have an adverse effect on civic pride.

Moreover, a strong, area-level correlation between brownfield land and morbidity was found by the first national-scale empirical examination conducted by the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Well-being and Durham University. The study concluded that people living in wards with a high proportion of brownfield land are significantly more likely to suffer from poorer health than those living in wards with a small proportion of brownfield land. As a result, the remediation and redevelopment of brownfield land should be considered as a public health policy issue.

 

Restoring social and economic dynamism

Area-based regeneration strategies and brownfield redevelopment in particular can create vibrant and diverse communities and inject new life into what were generally run-down areas. This is particularly the case in disadvantaged communities where community empowerment and social inclusion techniques dovetail with physical regeneration approaches, supporting civic pride and economic development.

Brownfield redevelopment is most successful when local communities are meaningfully involved in the planning process. Regeneration schemes undertaken by Ginkgo aim to simultaneously improve the urban environment and strengthen the residents’ ability to determine their own and their neighbourhood’s future.

Finally, by overcoming the barriers associated with brownfield remediation and redevelopment, Ginkgo is creating a net increase in affordable housing and is therefore contributing to reducing the poor social outcomes in health and education often associated with a lack of good quality and stable homes. 

 

Impact measurement

Ginkgo has developed dedicated metrics to inform its investment decisions and assess the impact of its remediation and redevelopment projects. By including Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) as an integral part of the investment process, and by aspiring to apply best practice, Ginkgo seeks to mitigate risk and bring to maturity a well-managed and financially attractive portfolio of real estate assets.

In order to assess its impact, Ginkgo selected the following metrics:

  • Land use: avoided land use consumption (hectares)

  • Remediation: volume of treated soil and groundwater (m3)

  • Carbon: CO2 emissions generated and saved over the demolition and remediation phase (tons)

  • Waste & Circular Economy: amount of waste avoided during the remediation and redevelopment phase (tons)

  • Regeneration: amount of residential, office and commercial spaces created (sqm)

  • Infrastructure: contribution to public infrastructure development through urban taxes and/or direct investment (millions €)

In addition, Ginkgo provides bespoke measurement data tailored to investor requirements (e.g. number of jobs created, affordable and social housing provision) and incorporates ESG analysis and reporting in its investment appraisals and management reports.