Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering


Brian Baetz



Committee Member

Spencer Smith, Sarah Dickson


Many cities around the world struggle with the presence of vacant and underutilized land in the urban environment. There is growing momentum across many municipal jurisdictions in North America to reuse public and privately held vacant and underutilized urban land on a temporary to potentially permanent basis for community-based projects; however, there are limited community-based tools available to assess the suitability of vacant land for potential reuse.

This thesis presents three papers (Chapters 2-4) that describe the development and application of a prototype community-based decision support tool (PDSS), developed in Microsoft ExcelÒ. The PDSS provides a methodology for evaluating up to fifteen community-based reuse strategies across three green infrastructure categories: parks, urban food production, and stormwater/ecosystems management. The PDSS aids in deriving community-focused goals, objectives and solutions for the efficient reuse of vacant and underutilized land.

The PDSS includes a vacant and underutilized land inventory for identifying and inventorying the physical and spatial attributes (i.e. location and condition) of vacant and underutilized land across the urban environment (VULI); a methodology for quantifying the suitability of vacant land for a suite of reuse strategies (SSI); a multi-objective, binary-integer programming formulation for the allocation of reuse strategies across the urban environment (LOCAL), and a tool for municipal green infrastructure investment decision-making (DECO).

The information derived from VULI and SSI can be used by community groups to help articulate the inherent potential of these spaces for future reuse. If this methodology was adopted at the municipal level, the prototype tool has the potential to expedite applications to reuse city-owned lands on a temporary basis. LOCAL provides a methodology to facilitate the allocation of multiple reuse strategies to a single parcel, to achieve a mix of green infrastructure uses at each site, and provides users with the ability to readily generate “what-if” scenarios based on user-specified allocation constraints. DECO can be utilized to design and investigate material alternatives, maintenance schedules, and different cost regimes, which can be useful for construction and long-term preventative maintenance decision-making. Finally, the results of a tree growth-stormwater attenuation modeling exercise are presented (Chapter 5). The methodology and results presented aid in articulating the stormwater attenuating benefits of trees that are planted on a temporary basis on vacant land.

McMaster University Library

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