Souktik Bhattacherjee 3 jun 2021 Articles 0 comments

Industrial revitalization is an approach to revive industrial buildings as per the requirement of the community. This step is taken up by several developed countries in the 21st century to meet the demand as per the changing urban scenario. To create a major impact, the government of the country provides funds directly and indirectly to the building owner for the revitalization process. It’s a long-run process and sometimes risky for building owners but it provides scope for more sustainable use of resources. Here we will see how in each country, industrial revitalization occurred, why it occurred and what’s the result of this process?

As per EPA (the United States Environmental Protection Agency) has over 450,000 brownfield sites. Brownfield sites are abandoned factories, mills, dump yards, gas stations, etc. which can potentially be contaminated with a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. These brownfields are the result of the dumping of contaminated waste in a site from the time of the industrial revolution in the 1970s. The result of having an abandoned mill, which once used to be the heart of the city are:

  • Causes neighborhood deterioration

  • Creates negative perception of the neighborhood

  • Open dumping and other illegal activities

  • Degrades soil, water, and air quality

  • Poses potential harm to animals and vegetations

  • Lowers property values

  • Reduces employment opportunities

  • Loss of tax revenue

  • Limits economic growth

Revitalizing the brownfields opens the opportunity for economic growth, social acuities and becomes an asset for the society. Let’s see some cases in the US of how revitalization has transformed the urban structure:

  • South Wilmington Wetland Park - The sewer systems most often failed during high tides and storms due to the presence of the Kankakee river nearby. Wilmington had large areas of brownfields within which 30 acres of that land-used for stormwater storage. The wetlands can balance and absorb water whenever required. Wetlands result in the enhancement of wildlife, aquatic habitats, and it also becomes new community open spaces. This open-space provides opportunities for recreational activities and also helps in economic growth. The site is transformed into wetlands through the removal and treatment of contaminated soil.

  • Stafford Hill Solar Farm, Rutland, VT - The site was a 15-acre municipal landfill. In 2015, the site was repurposed by transforming it into a microgrid solar farm. A 2.3-megawatt solar installation was made on the green hills of the dump yard. This microgrid helped to provide power supply to more households, and it is also a source of green energy.

  • Sparta, Tennessee - The city is composed of 5000 people surrounding a large lighting factory. In 2012, the lighting factory closes. The property is 300,000 square feet with three vacant buildings. The site is also contaminated with PCB and heavy metals. After the lighting-factory was closed for a few years, no company was interested in that property. In the city, a company named Jackson Kayak was looking for expansion scopes around the city. Jackson Kayaks are manufacturers of kayaks, paddleboards, and Orion coolers. As they were looking for a major expansion of the company, they saw a huge potential in the land. The company invested $4 million and created jobs for the local people.

  • Shoshone Paiute Tribe - In the Shoshone Paiute Tribe of the Duck Valley Reservation, Owyhee Combined School was found to be located on a 4,000 square foot petroleum-contaminated site. This contamination occurred due to overfilling of heating oil storage tanks supplied to school boilers. The funds for removing the contaminated soil were collected from Nevada Brownfields Program and school funds. After cleaning the site, the school converted the land to a playground with asphalt covering the entire area.

EPA’s Brownfield programs help communities, states, and tribes to assess, clean up and use sustainably the brownfields. EPA provides grants and technical support to the communities to successfully run the program.

Hong Kong, in the last few decades, they have undergone severe political changes and urban changes. Initially, Hong Kong was a strategic location for industries to set up, but with business growth in China, industries fled to China. This caused economic downfall, increase in brownfields all over Hong Kong. Industrial Revitalization Schemes were first announced in Hong Kong in 2009. Since then, several brownfields and industrial buildings have been re-purposed. The revitalization program solved the following issues:

  • Hong Kong has faced a housing problem for a long time. The revitalization of industries gave birth to a new housing complex, and also kept a check on the rental prices of houses in Hong Kong.

  • Commercial places like shopping malls and the hand-crafted accessories industry were made.

  • The unused industrial buildings attracted business owners to open organic food laboratories and development of storage units; occasional public gathering places; fitness centers with leisure activity units; art, workshops and music studios, etc.

The industry sector of India contributes 26% of India’s GDP and employs 22% of the total workforce. India’s economy can be classified as a middle-income developing market economy. It could be understood that industry is the key-stone sector and the base of the countries development. For such a diversified country with varying economic and geographical zones within the country, it becomes difficult to classify all revitalization under one umbrella. Here are some industry types and the type of revitalization they have gone through:

  • Steel industry - The steel industry belts are located all across India near the iron ore mines. So, with the steel industry, the mining industry with small and medium scale industries work together. During the coronavirus lockdown, lakhs of migrant laborers moved to villages due to the shutting down of small and medium scale industries. This created downfall in the demand for steel products in the industry and construction sector which needs to be revitalized. The aim of the steel industries must consider Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India movements as a part of the revitalization as well. The measures that must be taken for revitalization are:

    • Counseling of migrant laborers so that they return to their workplaces.

    • Increase the steel production as per demand.

    • Creating infrastructure for better distribution of resources.

    • Promoting reorganization of enterprises and enhance industrial concentration.

    • Enhancing technical reconstruction and boosting technological progress

    • Development of Steel Clusters as per Ministry of Steel.

Durgapur Steel plant, West Bengal, India (Image courtesy-

  • Jute Industry - The jute industries are mostly located across the banks of the river. Most of the jute-producing industries are located on the banks of river Ganga in West Bengal, India. The jute mills operate seasonally due to their large dependency on raw materials. This makes the jute mills act as a brownfield in the region. Due to climate changes and an increase in populations, there are severe urban problems at the regional level. These problems can be solved if the critical region can be identified. The jute industries of West Bengal are going through the process of revitalization for its increase of production units. Here are some of the measures in jute industries that may have an impact on the urban level:

    • Opening the jute mill’s non-industrial parts for the public and creating a social asset.

    • Sections of jute mill can be re-purposed during off-seasons

Here are some more industrial revitalization projects that have created a large impact on society and shown the future of industries:

1. CopenHill by BIG - Copenhagen city of Denmark aims to be a carbon-neutral city by 2025. To achieve this goal the first waste to energy plant is constructed at the heart of the city. The roof of this plant is transformed into a ski terrain slope. We often think of a waste polluted land when we think of an industrial site. But CopenHill shows the path of how our future industries will look like. The industry can be a part of the urban development and can completely become part of the urban fabric of the city.

CopenHill, Denmark (Image courtesy-

2. Toyota Woven city, Japan by BIG - With collaboration with Toyota and BIG, the project aims to build the world’s first urban incubator. The project shows how the city, manufacturing units, and research laboratory can co-exist and collaborate in a way for each other’s benefit. The city will have the most advanced technologies at the doorstep and have a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji.

Toyota Woven City, Japan (Image courtesy-

3. Chernobyl Tourism - The Ukrainian government turned the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion site into a tourism spot. It is one of the real ghost towns and shows how nature took over the industries and town. Though the disaster took place in 1986, the radiation is still quite high in the nearby affected zones. It is a great example of a contaminated ghost industrial zone is used as tourism with proper safety measures.

Chernobyl abandoned sites (Image courtesy-

Hence, we can understand how addressing the critical regional issues can turn to revitalize industries. The term industrial revitalization is quite new in some developing countries. With the change of the international agendas, the industries must take measures like advancing technologies to lower carbon emission and various other issues. At end of the day, it becomes our job to make people aware of the recent developments, work together to make a positive impact, and build a greener world.


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