3 steps to intelligent site selection

3 steps to intelligent site selection

Construction site

It used to be that executives scouting a location for a new office building, manufacturing plant or distribution center only needed to consider potential revenue, local tax incentives and regulatory issues.

Today, however, as the United States gradually crawls out of a recession, organizations are starting to revisit their expansion plans. How they treat the local environment has become a key part of their site selection process. Why? Environmental concerns can directly affect a project’s overall costs and build schedule, public perception and workforce morale, as well as relationships with partners, government agencies and future generations.

Conversely, the location choice for a new development projectcan have a colossal impact on local and global environments. Environmental consequences can surface in everything from a facility’s location to design, orientation, impact on the landscape and the building materials used.

For example, gathering building materials impacts the environment. Harvesting trees could result in deforestation, mining mineral resources can disturb the natural environment, and even the transport of these materials can be a highly polluting activity, depending on their weight and distance from the site. Manufacturing building products also requires energy and creates environmental emissions.

Benefits of assessing environmental impact

Evaluating potential environmental impacts early -- during the actual land acquisition and site design and development phases -- can help avoid expense and lost time for projects down the road. The more developers know about potential constraints and options for mitigation plans, the better. 

An intelligent site selection, as well as design plan, also should incorporate flexibility to allow for changes that could arise during development.

Identifying potential environmental problems, such as air and water quality, allows developers to consider mitigation solutions as part of the project's overall design, thereby minimizing the costs and physical limitations of such solutions.

In addition, such knowledge can be a powerful tool during the due diligence process. It can be used to assess mitigation costs, which in turn can be used to negotiate the purchase price of land.

Next page:  How to make an intelligent site selection

Steps to intelligent site selection

Here are a few steps location executives should follow when evaluating possible site purchases:

Perform a pre-purchase environmental site assessment. This can save time and money, as much more of both are needed if successive phases of environmental investigation are required.

Conduct a thorough site investigation during a potential land or building acquisition. This will help your organization efficiently and cost-effectively collect the needed information, properly calculate and analyze data, develop and implement appropriate plans, and comply with ever-evolving local, state and federal regulations across a much broader spectrum of environmental areas.

Take the time to do the proper biological and archaeological studies. This can help your organization avoid major setbacks. For example, in some geographic locations, it’s important to determine whether or not there are any endangered species residing on a piece of property prior to purchase.

Prospective purchasers should also either search archaeological repositories for information on existing sites or conduct actual archaeological surveys to determine if important resources are present on a potential development site. This approach can reduce the time of processing a project and result in great cost savings and good public relations by avoiding destruction of sites that are of concern to the public and, in particular, Native American groups.

Next page:  Does sustainability matter? 

How sustainability helps competitiveness

Organizations implementing sustainability approaches today are realizing cost efficiencies that boost their bottom lines. Supplementing their efforts by teaming up with experts who offer in-depth, broad environmental and sustainability expertise will help companies and developers apply sustainability principles to improve their competitive position and status in the marketplace.

The reduced-carbon-footprint trend is prevalent in every sector --- from governments and office-using corporations to retailers and manufacturers. Some companies are now even being assessed in the investment market with regard to their sustainability activities and successes.

According to the U.S. Government Services Administration (GSA), site selection is a ‘life cycle’ decision that recognizes the balance among the initial cost of real estate, the overall cost of executing a project, and finally, the cost of operating the facility. It also recognizes the benefit (or cost) to the local community and the environment. While the initial cost may be a significant driver, all factors must be considered in order to make the right decision.

Consequently, it has now become important to both users and owners of real estate that site selection, design, use and impact meet these new levels of environmental expectations.

Buildings, facilities and manufacturing plants that don't satisfy these marketplace expectations are destined to become economically and functionally obsolete.

Photo of construction site provided by yencha via Shutterstock.