Evaluation of an Economic Incentive for Construction Site Erosion Control
Geauga County, OH

Grantee: Geauga Soil & Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $15,778
Non-federal Funds: $5,629
Project Duration: 06/1996 - 11/1997
Status: complete

Problem Statement
One of the most frequent complaints of those working in the erosion and sedimentation control field is that it is like "pulling teeth" to get most developers to promptly apply erosion control measures. For most developers, erosion control is a nuisance, costs money and is therefore ignored. While educational and regulatory efforts have had some successes, economic incentives may be the best approach to controlling soil erosion and sedimentation at construction sites. If early seeding and mulching increases the lot value and/or sale time, then developers and builders may voluntarily implement control measures while seeking a competitive edge and an increase in profits.

Before channel treatment

Soil erosion and sedimentation problems often occur at construction sites. Despite educational and regulatory efforts targeting developers, soil erosion and sedimentation control measures are often ignored. This project evaluated whether there is an economic incentive for developers to use good erosion control practices.

The goal of this project was to set up a "real world" experiment to measure objectively the impact that seeding and mulching sites has on lot value and sale time. Increased lot value and/or decreased sale time will result in increased profits for developers and builders. If it can be demonstrated rigorously that the economic benefits of controlling erosion and sedimentation from construction sites are greater than the costs of seeding and mulching, then this information could be widely publicized in the building/development community. Appealing to increased profitability seems to be a good way to develop voluntary application of seeding and mulching on construction sites.

The work plan included two primary tasks: (1) develop an approach that establishes the impact that seeding and mulching has on lot value, and (2) address the issue of lot sale time. Both tasks involved randomly selecting sites for treatment and evaluating them using standard statistical methods. The results of the analyses were publicized.

For Task 1, an empirical study was undertaken to investigate the economic impacts of seeding and mulching on the timing of residential lot sales. Residential lots on new developments in Geauga County were selected at random for the establishment of vegetative cover (grass). The timing of lots sales was tracked with the aim of comparing sale time for seeded (green) lots and unseeded (brown) lots. The results have not shown a preferential bias toward green lots over brown lots as was anticipated, however, the developer of the subdivision could see a benefit to having all the lots seeded.

For Task 2, an empirical study was undertaken to establish the economic impact of seeding and mulching on the values of residential lots. Residential lots on a new development in Geauga County were selected at random for the establishment of vegetative cover (grass). Once seed was established, photographs of both the green and brown lots were taken and used in a "market survey" lot valuation study. Homebuyers, realtors, and developers were invited to take part in the lot valuation study. They were shown the pictures of the lots and then asked to order them in terms of desirability, and then place a dollar value on each lot.

Statistical analysis of the survey data revealed that although developers did not perceive much added value for green lots, homebuyers perceived green lots to be worth five percent more than brown lots, on average. This additional value far exceeds the costs for developers to apply standard seed and mulch practices to a residential lot.

After channel treatment

The results of this study were presented to a number of audiences. To date, the project has reached approximately 130 professionals through presentations at regional and international meetings of organizations such as the Ohio Association of Conservation Districts and the International Erosion Control Association. A final project publicity phase was conducted at a demonstration site. The results of this project were also released through the local and state press and trade organizations. In addition, project personnel are making progress on tracking lot sales and setting up the questionnaire to be used in a lot valuation study.

For more detailed information on the project results, see the project home page.

Contact: Keith McClintock, (216) 834-1122


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