Research Area:
Landscape Change and Management

The Potential of Brownfields

Instruments to exploit the potential of brownfields for nature protection and the development of green spaces in urban areas

Photo: Stutzriemer, IOER

Even though many cities are now growing once again, they often have to deal with the problem of abandoned residential and industrial areas. This poses the question: What are possible and sensible uses for these brownfield sites? Although there exists a multitude of partial answers to this, an integrated approach is lacking which takes account of the various issues of economics, law, urban planning, infrastructure, society, nature protection and green space planning. This project looks jointly at the aspects of nature protection and green space use, while considering how specific planning goals can be implemented and which instruments are required for this. The other aspects mentioned above are included as framework conditions. Two research questions had been at the heart of this project:

  1. What preconditions are necessary to ensure that the goals of nature protection and green space use to improve the urban environment can be combined with the development of brownfields (and to which extent)?
  2. Which planning instruments are available to foster the sensible management of brownfields in terms of green space development and nature protection, and how can the "randomness" and speed of brownfield development be effectively countered?

The goal was to develop strategies for the remediation and use of brownfield sites to improve the quality of life for residents, while simultaneously serving the aims of urban nature protection. The project sought to determine which planning instruments are best suited to achieving this end. This work leaded to the development of guidelines and advised to help nature protection and green space planners better exploit the potentials of urban brownfield sites.

Two important project results are:

  • Findings on the perception and acceptance of renaturation options by the urban population (brownfield sites and their surroundings): When making decisions on the use of urban brownfields for nature conservation, it is important to know how such sites are perceived by local residents, i.e. whether naturally arising wilderness areas are accepted, whether or how such areas are used and what kind of utilization concepts the urban residents have for brownfield sites. In order to answer these questions, a survey of residents was conducted in six districts of Dresden regarding the perception, acceptance and use of urban brownfields. The results allow us to determine which renaturation options are viewed by city dwellers as particularly suitable for upgrading brownfields and residential areas. The results were validated by comparison with the findings of a survey subsequently carried out in Leipzig by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) (Mathey, J.; Arndt, T.; Banse, J.; Rink, D. (2016): Public perception of spontaneous vegetation on brownfields in urban areas. Results from surveys in Dresden and Leipzig (Germany). Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. DOI information: 10.1016/j.ufug.2016.10.007).
  • A matrix to help evaluate planning options for the utilization for urban brown-fields: The following options for the spatial planning of urban wasteland were analysed with regard to their added value for sustainable urban development, necessary prerequisites as well as their practical implementation: urban agriculture, urban forests, gardens, sports and leisure areas, event venues (temporary), extensive green spaces, nature experience areas, areas of natural succession as well as wilderness sites (see poster).

Run Time



Dr. rer. nat. Juliane Mathey
Tel. +49 (0)351 46 79 231


Basic funding


TU Dresden
Dresden City
UFZ Leipzig
selected cities