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Sustainability Conference Focuses on Brownfields

With revitalization projects like the Jordan Valley area downtown, some say Springfield has proven its commitment to sustainable projects.

One local university is hosting a sustainability conference which began today to explore ways old buildings can be reused.

KSMU's Christy Hendricks reports how sustainability projects can revive rundown community areas.

With people leisurely sipping on coffee and munching on pastries, the mood of those attending Drury University's "Midwest Summit on the Sustainable Redevelopment of Contaminated Properties" is light, but conference goers are actually talking about a serious topic.

70 or so people gathered at Drury University's Hammons School of Architecture to learn about sustainable buildings.

The sustainability conference runs through Thursday.

David Doyle is the land revitalization coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency in Kansas City.

He says this is the third sustainability conference the EPA has held and that its goal is to explore sustainable design and development.

One of the main focuses of the conference is what to do with brownfields.

Brownfields are underutitilized properties that can drag down real estate values and often contain potential hazardous waste.

Karen Massey is the deputy director of the Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority in Jefferson City which finances environmental projects.

Massey says brownfields can have big environmental and economic impacts on communities.

She says the fear factor of determining what contaminates are on a property and cleaning that property often deters developers from choosing to renovate old buildings.

David Doyle with the EPA says the city of Springfield has shown a commitment to redeveloping brownfield sites.

This week's conference will include a tour of some of those sites.

Doyle says using sunlight, water and energy efficiently as well as reusing materials can help buildings be environmentally friendly.

He says even though certified "green buildings" like the Discovery Center downtown are more expensive to build, they save energy in the long run.

And Drury University practices what it preaches.

Inside the Hammons School of Architecture is a certificate announcing the building's certification as a "green building".

The "Midwest Summit on the Sustainable Redevelopment of Contaminated Properties" at Drury University lasts until Thursday, March 8th.

For more information on the conference call 873-7478.