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The National Brownfield Summit – A Brief Recap

By David Nguyen – Staff Writer

This year’s conference is about charting the future of the CBN. (Image from CBN).

On June 13, 2018, The Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN) held their 8th annual conference, taking the form of a National Brownfield Summit. This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the 2003 National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy report, and the cornerstone of this year’s summit was to revisit the original report and reflect on the progress since then, as well as the challenges that still need to be addressed.

Keynote Speaker

After an introduction by president Grant Walsom, the conference began with the keynote speaker Marlene Coffey, Executive Director of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, who spoke about previous examples of the developments on Brownfields, including housing developed on a Goodyear Tires site, or the Vancouver Olympic village or Toronto Pan American housing facilities.

She spoke of Toronto’s current housing crisis and how costs have outpaced income for many renters due to the market response to the economic growth in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as Hamilton and Waterloo. She also spoke about how condominium development is preferred due to the pre-selling and reselling markets providing profit and equity for the developer before and during construction.  Contrast that to rental housing, where developers of must put up front all costs of development before any profits.

The city of Toronto’s plan to address these concerns include building 69 000 affordable rental units within 10 years, extending the life of 260 000 units, as well as income support for 311 000 households. In addition, the federal government launched the National Housing Strategy in 2017, with $40 billion over 10 years to support affordable housing initiatives across Canada. Coffey reports that municipality participation is key to obtaining funding for affordable housing, and a role that can be played is to donate available land for development.

Current Affairs

A series of professional presentations followed, discussing various emerging investigation and remediation techniques. These included Dr. Barbara A. Zeeb discussing the use of phytotechnologies to remediate brownfield sites. She compared the traditional method of soil excavation, transport, and disposal to phytoextraction – the use of plants to remove the contaminant while leaving the soil intact and reusable, such as using natural and native species to remove organics like DDT. Other benefits include its cost effectiveness and the uptake of greenhouse gasses, but technologies are site specific, and can take years to remediate fully – highlighting the role that phytoremediation can play alongside traditional remediation methods.

A legal update with lawyer John Georgakopoulos provided an overview of legal cases currently before the courts, with implications for the brownfield development. His presentation compared cases of regulatory liability to civil liability and about managing environmental liabilities through exercising due diligence. He noted, however, that due diligence plays a bigger role in regulatory liability and a smaller role in civil liability, and he encouraged environmental liability protections like environmental insurance and regulatory liability protection.

Cross-Country Check-Up Panelists Kerri Skelly (front left), Lisa Fairweather (centre) and Krista Barfoot (left) with President D. Grant Walsom (back). (Photo from the CBN).

A cross-country checkup with panelists from across Canada discussed the changing landscape for excess soils. Speakers include Krista Barfoot (of Jacobs Engineering Group) speaking about Ontario’s proposed guidelines on excess soils, such as the emphasis on the use of excess soil management plans and addressing issues such as situations where there is no beneficial reuse site. Lisa Fairweather spoke about the Alberta’s Remediation Certificate and its impacts on reducing barriers to brownfields development; and Kerri Skelly spoke about British Columbia’s new excess soil regulations and its goals of clarifying rules for businesses moving soil and increasing the opportunity for soil reuse.

Angus Ross (left) with Grant Walsom. (Photo from the CBN).

Before breaking up into working groups, the final presentations reviewed the current state of brownfield development in Canada. Angus Ross, who chaired the original task force, discussed how the National Strategy succeeded in addressing liability issues, financial funding, and building public awareness of brownfields. A major recommendation was the formation of a national brownfield network, which led to the CBN.

Ryerson PhD student Reanne Ridsdale presented findings on a survey of about 6,500 brownfield remediated sites across Canada, where 80 participants were polled, including environmental consultants, government officials, lawyers and financiers.

Reanne Ridsdale presenting the results of the CBN/Ryerson survey. (Photo from the Daily Commercial News).

Following was a presentation by a Ryerson student planning studio group compared brownfield policies of each province, based on criteria such as clear policies, an accessible brownfield site inventory, and incentives for development. Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia were considered to be very progressive in their policies towards brownfield development, but improvements could still be made across Canada in terms of standardizing rules and policies and producing developer friendly guidelines for site remediation. Then PhD student Reanne Ridsdale talked about the results of the CBN/Ryerson survey of the brownfield community’s view of progress in the last 15 years. Respondents indicated that the CBN is too eastern focused on central and eastern Canada, with little presence in the Prairies, as well as being too research-focussed and not conducting enough outreach.

Charting the Future

The day was capped off with breakout discussion groups to discuss “challenge questions” and allow attendees to contribute ideas to future CBN activities to advance brownfield developments. Challenge question topics included the roles of the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, the development of a brownfield inventory, innovations in brownfield developments, and the societal impacts of brownfield development on communities. One of the key discussion points was for the CBN to promote a “Put Brownfields First” mentality, particularly within governments. This includes developing a financing model/regime for governments to support brownfield developments, particularly in smaller municipalities, as well as to harmonize rules and guidelines for brownfield development. In addition, the CBN should facilitate the education of brownfields to local communities and involve land owners and developers in the process of implementing brownfield policies.

The National Brownfield Summit provided an amazing opportunity for members and attendees to provide input towards the goals of the CBN. More information about the Canadian Brownfields Network can be found at https://canadianbrownfieldsnetwork.ca/ including the summit program and information about the presenters.

Snapshot of the Canadian Brownfields Programs

As reported by Don Proctor in The Daily Commercial News, the federal government has an important role to play in supporting brownfield development, suggests a recent report authored by third-year undergraduate Ryerson University students working on behalf of the Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN).

“There is a sense among industry professionals and academics that the industry as a whole has not progressed as much as it should,” said one of the students, David Sturgeon, at the CBN’s annual conference held recently at the downtown Toronto university campus.

Map of Brownfield Sites in Regina, Saskatchewan

The students conducted a broad snapshot of federal brownfield programs, highlighting cleanup and best practices.

Sturgeon said the student team organized a three-tier rating scoresheet for each province’s progress on brownfields. B.C., Ontario and Quebec got the highest marks. Quebec is a leader because of its incentives-based cleanup programs. One initiative offers 70 per cent funding for onsite remediation work.

Quebec also has an accessible and up-to-date brownfield site inventory, which is a step ahead of other provinces, Sturgeon told delegates.

While the country’s three most populous provinces scored high, the students ranked Alberta lower down, closer to the middle tier.

“It (the Alberta government) has made quite a bit of progress towards cleanup in the last couple of decades,” Sturgeon said. “But where they struggle is helping developers to act sooner than later on idle or vacant contaminated sites.”

The student team was led by Chris De Sousa, the vice-president of the CBN and a professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. De Sousa said the study compiled extensive information on brownfields from federal, provincial and territorial governments. Also reviewed were provincial stakeholder groups and comparisons were made with the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Reanne Ridsdale, a Ryerson PhD student, conducted research into actual practice versus the objectives outlined in the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), founded in the late 1980s. For a survey of about 6,500 brownfield remediated sites across Canada, Ridsdale polled 80 participants, including environmental consultants, government officials, several lawyers and financiers.

Eighty-five per cent of those polled said brownfields were a medium to high priority in their organization.

She said 59 of the 80 respondents indicated Canada would benefit from a national fund for brownfield redevelopment. The top three developmental barriers indicated by respondents deal with remediation costs and lack of information available on site conditions, Ridsdale said.

The survey also supported the CBN as a national organization but some respondents were negative because the CBN does not receive federal funding so its scope is limited.

“We are a little bit eastern-centric,” which is probably because of the lack of funding, Ridsdale told delegates, adding the survey results will be published as part of a white paper this summer.

Angus Ross, chairman of L and A Concepts, chaired two government task forces on brownfields, including one that created the National Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy for Canada in 2003. The findings were not the last word on brownfields “but they did a tremendous job in kickstarting the entire brownfield file in Canada,” he said.

Ross, who was appointed by the federal government in 1996 to head the NRTEE and in 2004 to chair the CBN’s advisory panel, said brownfields became “a household word” in the early 2000s through media reports on the NRTEE.

“We got very immediate provincial and municipal buy-in,” he told delegates at the conference.

Hamilton Waterfront

Nominations Open from Canadian Brownfields Awards

2018 HUB Awards Nominations are Open!  Nominate a Distinguished Brownfielder Today

Do you know someone who is making an important contribution to brownfields?  Nominate them for the 2018 HUB Awards!

The CBN HUB (Heroes Underpinning Brownfields) Awards recognize members of the brownfield community who make the exceptional projects we see every day a possibility.

The HUB Awards are given in three categories, relating to the three stages of brownfielders’ careers:

  • Foundation: Presented to a contributor to the Brownfield industry in Canada who has had a profound impact on how things are done today. Their work has provided a Foundation upon which the current practices and policies have been based. This is a “career achievement” award
  • Pillar: Presented to a recipient who has proven to be a Pillar of Strength in a significant aspect of the Brownfield industry in Canada. They continue to provide valuable expertise and influence into the policies and practices that we are employing. The Pillar award is a mid-career award
  • Vision: Presented to someone who is at an early stage in their career in the Brownfield Industry in Canada and who is already providing valuable insight into programs, policies or practices that will be improving how Brownfield redevelopment in Canada is completed

What makes a HUB Award winner? Take a look at the 2017 winners to see.

To submit a nomination, please complete our interactive nomination form.

Events

Canadian Brownie Awards – Nominations Close October 5th

Founded in 2001 by the Canadian Urban Institute, the Brownie Awards recognize the innovative efforts of professionals who rehabilitate sites that were once contaminated, under-utilized, and undeveloped by remaking them into productive residential and commercial projects that contribute to the growth of healthy communities across Canada.

NOMINATIONS ARE OPEN!

The Brownies are open to everyone in the brownfield community, and are designed to recognize excellence in projects or programs.  The nominations deadline is Friday, October 5, 2018.  A panel of judges, drawn from the industry, will determine the winners.  If you have completed, or are working on, a project that fits in one of the above categories, please consider submitting a nomination!

Download the nomination form to nominate a PROJECT or PROGRAM for a Brownie Award PDF file or a Microsoft Word file.

Download the nomination form to nominate an INDIVIDUAL for Brownfielder of the Year PDF file or a Microsoft Word file.

Instructions: Download the nomination form and save it to your computer. Complete the fillable form and save the file. Send your completed nomination form as an email attachment to David Petrie at Canadian Brownfields Network at davidp@canadianbrownfieldsnetwork.ca, along with your supporting documentation as outlined in the form.

Project Categories:

There are six categories for project nominations for the Brownie Awards.

You are welcome to submit the same project to multiple categories for consideration.

REPROGRAM:
Legislation, Policy & Program Initiatives

Projects or programs that:

  • Remove barriers and/or facilitate brownfield redevelopment, reinvestment and regeneration
  • Provide models of excellence that can be applied or replicated by provincial, regional or municipal governments
  • Stimulate new investment or facilitate collaborative partnerships to implement vision for intensification and improved ROI for public funds

REMEDIATE:
Sustainable Remediation & Technological Innovation

Projects or programs that:

  • Demonstrate leadership and innovation in environmental soil remediation
  • Promote economic in-situ solutions that avoid broader environmental impacts
  • Incorporate ecological principles through pilots designed to go mainstream
  • Encourage use of innovative, cost-effective technologies that shift perceptions in the marketplace

REINVEST:
Financing, Risk Management & Partnerships

Projects or programs that:

  • Rely on innovative approaches to obtain capital financing for the purposes of economic and ecological regeneration (i.e. use of public/private partnerships), public incentives to leverage investment
  • Facilitate innovative solutions to mitigating process risk

REBUILD:
Project Development: Building Scale

Projects or programs that:

  • Demonstrate excellence in site specific responses to public policy initiatives that accelerate the pace of regeneration resulting from development
  • Promote an enhanced public realm; successfully leverage opportunities for collaboration and policy integration across different sectors
  • Combine imaginative adaptive reuse of heritage structures that promote health and well-being

RENEW:
Project Development: Neighbourhood Scale

Projects or programs that:

  • Stimulate neighbourhood-scale reinvestment
  • Use adaptive reuse of heritage and other structures to encourage integrated multi-phased redevelopment
  • Demonstrate high levels of collaboration; inspire many land owners and investors to engage with community support of a shared vision
  • Promote comprehensive neighbourhood transformation by re-envisioning the public realm, and improving functionality, liveability and character

REACH OUT:
Communications, Marketing & Public Engagement

Projects or programs that:

  • Successfully package municipal reinvestment plans and programs for regeneration and/or brownfields redevelopment in support of a community’s competitiveness and long-term sustainability
  • Demonstrate innovative approaches to build support for public/private investment and development designed to achieve intensification through redevelopment, regeneration and other reinvestment strategies
  • Introduce a brand that enhances acceptance and understanding of brownfield redevelopment, regeneration and reinvestment

Individual Achievement Award:

BROWNFIELDER OF THE YEAR AWARD:

Recognizing and individual who:

  • Has a reputation as a champion for brownfield redevelopment
  • Promotes a better understanding of brownfields as strategic assets
  • Invests exceptional personal effort to further the cause of brownfield redevelopment