For any readers who happen to be in the vicinity, The HOPES Conference is this weekend at the University of Oregon. HOPES (or Holistic Options for Planet Earth Sustainability) is a creation of the Ecological Design Center, part of the school of Architecture and Allied Arts. This year will be the 16th HOPES conference, and the topic is "Designing in the post-industrial era."
I will be part of a panel discussing Brownfield Remediation, the process of cleaning up a site which has been contaminated as a result of its previous use. These sites range from former gas stations which have leeched hydrocarbons or MTBE into the soil to an office building contaminated with asbestos, and many other kinds of sites besides. The strategy of cleaning up the contamination varies greatly based on the type of contaminant. Most of these sites cannot be used as they are for any purpose before being cleaned up, and are currently sitting unused. They may be empty lots or abandoned buildings, but usually they are dark, unmonitored, and tend to attract crime. Almost every big city in America has several such sites, and they tend to be a blight on their neighborhoods. Typically they are more concentrated in working and middle class neighborhoods, especially those that were centers of industry in years bygone.
There is a movement called New Urbanism which holds that well designed cities are in fact much more sustainable than any other way of organizing habitations (such as suburbs). Although it is not explicitly one of their principles, brownfield remediation is essential in efforts to make cities more sustainable, livable, walkable, healthy and happy places that can be the centers of a new sustainable society. And while it has been expensive in the past, currently government grants and insurance products that mitigate risk are making this process more economically attractive to developers.
I am excited to attend the event, not just to participate in the panel but also to see the other presentations. I hope to give lots of updates real time, and I have set up the ability to update my blog from my iPhone so that I can quickly post any interesting material that I consume there. For anyone who may attend, my panel will be at 1:30 on Saturday. Details for registration are on their website.