Evaluation of an Economic Incentive for Construction Site Erosion Control
St. Joseph County, IN

Grantee: St. Joeseph County Soil and Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $14,948
Non-federal Funds: $7,322
Project Duration: 06/1996 - 12/1998
Status: complete

Problem Statement
One of the most frequent complaints of those working in the erosion and sediment control field is that it is like " pulling teeth" to get most developers to apply erosion control measures promptly. For most developers, erosion control is a nuisance and costs money, so therefore it is simply 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 improves the lot value and/or sale time, then developers/builders may voluntarily implement control measures, seeking to gain a competitive edge and increase profits.

Brown lot

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 idea of this project was to set up a "real world" experiment to objectively measure the impact seeding and mulching has on lot value and sale time. Increased lot value and/or increased 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 construction/development community. Appealing to increased profitability is a good way to develop voluntary application of seeding and mulching on construction sites.

Green lot

The work under this project included two tasks:

  1. Establish the impact that seeding and mulching has on lot value
  2. Address the issue of lot sale time

Both tasks involved randomly selecting sites for treatment and then evaluating them using standard statistical methods.

Because of the nature of the project, there were no appropriate measures of soil loss prevented or beneficial uses improved as a result of the project. Sites were randomly selected and half were seeded and mulched. The first task of the evaluation then involved two approaches. First, a questionnaire was distributed to developers, realtors, and home buyers, asking them to value homes with both brown and green lots. Second, actual sale prices were tracked to determine if there was a real difference in the value of green lot versus brown lot homes. For the second task, the time to home sale was tracked from a starting point when all homes were fully constructed. The data from both tasks was then statistically analysed.

The survey was able to verify a significant increase in perceived value of $628 due to seeding and mulching. However, the sale tracking results were inconclusive on both sale price and time. Through this project the study results were distributed to 2,200 farms and members of the agricultural business community through the LaPorte County SWCD and St. Joseph County SWCD annual reports. About 450 engineers, architects, and construction managers were reached through erosion control workshops and 1,000 developers, consultants and SWCD staff received flyers. Approximately 200 members of the conservation community were reached at the Indiana SWCD annual meeting. Academics were reached in both the United States and abroad through conferences and published papers.

Contact: John Dooms, St. Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District, (219) 291-2300


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