Can Land Development Be Sustainable?

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Credit: USGBC

When it comes to land development, the real estate industry has a poor sustainability record. Historically, raw land or sites slated for redevelopment were cleared with a bulldozer, rarely taking the current ecosystem into account. However, this trend is changing.

Eco-friendly development is increasingly popular, as investors seek alternatives to unsustainable levels of growth. The real estate industry can make land development more sustainable by utilizing techniques such as low impact development and environmental site design.

The essential question is how to mitigate the impact. Land development costs rarely take the environmental toll of construction into account, making it cheap to transform healthy ecosystems to depleted housing lots quickly. However, there are several ways to develop land without destroying the current ecosystem. By incentivizing these considerations, the real estate industry can collectively lower its carbon footprint and proactively respond to environmental issues like climate change.

Incorporating Better Practices

There are several ways to improve land development practices. One technique is low impact development. This process uses natural methods that protect water, soil and vegetation in a current ecosystem. Strategies to reduce impact can include conservation easements, land compatible design and riparian buffers.

Minimizing disturbance is vital when sustainably developing land. Traditional practices such as bulldozing and clear-cutting damage the ecosystem and create future issues caused by soil disruption. By incorporating concepts such as forest mulching and hand clearing, developers can mitigate their impact on the soil. These strategies can prevent future issues like flooding by creating a stormwater management plan upfront.

More sustainable land development must take into account impacts before, during and after construction. Construction zones can be particularly impactful, but organizations can reduce some of these impacts by utilizing strategies that repair the disrupted landscape. Using models such as environmental site design help build around the topography, paying close attention to passive solar opportunities, naturalized areas and stormwater management.

Innovation and Incentivization

Due to shifting market and consumer demands, the real estate market is changing. While rapid growth was once incentivized, it looks like sustainability is the current champion for future development. Now that building a more sustainable world is a consumer value, developers are responding by changing the way they build.

While certain sustainable features may cost more upfront, there are plenty of ways for land developers to utilize innovative technology without a substantial investment. For example, merely using innovative building materials and new technology can affect the environmental impact of construction.

Financial incentives accompany the consumer trend toward sustainability. With development transitioning towards a more sustainable mindset, monetary support is essential. In many places, there are grants and tax deductions available for various project types.

Greening Real Estate

Making sustainable land development a reality requires new industry standards that are more cognizant of future impacts. Companies must take the effects of development on a specific plot of land into consideration before construction. The real estate industry is trending towards a low carbon market, with investors emphasizing the necessity of sustainable development.

Consumer input plays an essential role in the utilization of more sustainable land development practices. However, there are also many within the real estate industry cultivating a proactive response to rising prices for fossil fuels and increasing energy consumption.

While shifts in the market may bring about change in the immediate future, investors and developers are also aware of finite resources and climate change. In the long term, sustainable land development will be the only option. Building with the future in mind is more than a trend, it’s a necessity. By utilizing the correct techniques, it’s possible to make land development sustainable.