constructing a better built environment

Principal Designer considerations for brownfield projects

27th May 2022   |   Jamie Barrett   |   Reading Time: 3 minutes

As outlined in our recent perspective piece, there are many financial, sociological, and environmental benefits to developing brownfield sites or previously developed land.

However, the very nature of such disused and derelict sites can bring construction complications and uncertainties, therefore specific considerations are needed for brownfield sites, particularly around health and safety.

Under Construction Design & Management (CDM) 2015 regulations, it is the role of the Principal Designer to lead on health and safety during the pre-construction phase of any construction project involving more than one contractor. The Principal Designer therefore will have to factor in some particular considerations for brownfield projects to adhere to CDM regulations on health and safety.

Pre-construction site research

The Principal Designer should be involved in the project from its very inception (the pre-construction phase).  By appointing the Principal Designer at the beginning, you are not only adhering to regulations, but you will also benefit from their contribution to the assessment of the viability and cost of the project at each of the planning stages.

CDM regulations require the Client/Principal Designer to legally provide detailed site information for inclusion in the pre-construction information. A range of surveys and reports will be required to support this. 

Early-stage research into the site using historical, hydrological, geological, and environmental information; data from the local authority Brownfields Land Register and Contaminated Land Register; a topographical survey; and utility mapping will provide an initial picture of the make-up of the land and support the Principal Designer’s pre-construction information.

Contamination considerations

A key health and safety consideration for the Principal Designer in brownfield site development will be contamination – land with concentrations of potentially hazardous substances that can present a risk to human health, the environment, buildings, and structures.

As previously developed land, brownfield sites carry a higher risk of contamination, particularly in the UK with its legacy of industrialisation.

A geophysical survey can analyse the physical and chemical properties of the ground and obtaining samples and drilling boreholes should reveal the extent of any contamination such as asbestos, soil/groundwater contamination, radon gas, mining hazards, and landfill hazards.

If the land is contaminated, whilst the cost of decontamination can be significant, Land Remediation Relief is an enhanced corporation tax relief of 150% for cleaning up contamination in land or buildings which can generate significant savings on development projects involving contaminated or derelict sites.

Structural implications

If a brownfield site houses an existing structure, then it must either be reused and repurposed or demolished so that the site is cleared for new development – both options require specific considerations for the Principal Designer.  

If existing structures on the brownfield site are listed buildings or deemed to have heritage significance, then listed building consent will be needed for their modification or demolition.

Repurposing existing structures can work with the aesthetic and heritage of the site but bring construction implications and complications that differ from a new build.

The Principal Designer will need to include a report on the structural stability of the site and nearby structures in pre-construction information.

Demolition preparations

Planning approval may be required to demolish existing buildings or structures on brownfield sites. Since 2020, fast-track planning for brownfield regeneration allows redundant freestanding buildings of a footprint of up to 1000 square metres to fast-track the planning process for demolishing and rebuilding them as new residential developments within the footprint of the original building.

Demolition considerations will include security of the site, removal of hazards, and disconnection of utilities.

How Evolution5 can help you

Brownfield site development has many benefits and, by applying our specialist construction knowledge, we can help you to maximise those benefits and the return on investment for your project. Our professional team has extensive hands-on experience in brownfield site development.

By appointing us to act as the Principal Designer we can plan, manage, monitor, and coordinate all pre-construction activities on your behalf complying with regulations and ensuring that the health and safety of your project is outstanding with all risks monitored and controlled.

Our award-winning team is experienced at supporting clients across London and the South East from feasibility stage through to project completion. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you secure external investment for your construction project with robust project management services get in touch for a complimentary initial consultation.

Evolution5 is a professional consultancy offering principal designer, project management, quantity surveying, employer’s agent, and contract administration services for projects across London and the South East.

If you have a construction project and would like to explore how the team can help you, click the button below or call 023 8040 5073.