Accounting for land-use efficiency and temporal variations between brownfield remediation alternatives in life-cycle assessment

A. Beames, S. Broekx, R. Heijungs, R. Lookman, K. Boonen, Y. van Geert, K. Dendoncker, P. Seuntjes

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Abstract The latest life-cycle assessment methods account for land use, due to the production, use and disposal of products and services, in terms of ecosystem damage. The process of brownfield remediation converts otherwise idle urban space into productive space. The value to ecosystems in this context is of course limited since the brownfield site remains urban. When evaluating brownfield remediation technologies, the availability of space on-site is dependent on the duration of time required by the remediation technology to reach the remediation target. Remediation technology alternatives tend to vary largely in terms of duration. Comparative life-cycle assessments of remediation technologies, to date, present the large variations between alternatives in terms of remediation duration but do not translate this into an impact or parameter. The restored subsurface zone is often defined as a functional unit, when in fact the surface area is the resource restored by the remediation service. The economic benefits of making land resources available are particularly important considerations in the context of brownfield remediation. The research proposes an innovative impact assessment approach that allows land to be considered as a finite resource. The method is applied in a comparative life-cycle assessment of two potential remediation scenarios for an idle brownfield in the Brussels region of Belgium. The results show that there is a trade-off between greenhouse gas emissions and land availability and that both are largely dependent on the efficiency of the contaminant extraction mechanism. The results also raise the question as to whether the economic valuation of land, like precious metals and fossil fuels, provides an accurate reflection of the true value of the resource. Considering land as a resource at the midpoint level is also relevant in other urban contexts where competition exists between different land-uses, where urban sprawl is detrimental to undeveloped areas and where urban intensification is a policy objective.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-117
    JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
    Issue numberAugust
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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