sealPurdue Business Briefs

December 1997

Grassy lots reap 'green' for developers, environment

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Color photos of a seeded and an unseeded lot are available. Ask for the photos called Harbor/Lots."

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- An undeveloped residential lot that's covered with grass is likely to bring a bigger profit to the developer than a more typical bare-soil lot, according to a Purdue University study.

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The grass-covered lot also will profit the environment and may help the developer comply with local or state regulations.

Purdue researchers and their collaborators from two Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Ohio and Indiana released details of the study Oct. 15 during on-site demonstrations in northeast Ohio. The participating Soil and Water Conservation Districts are in Geauga County, Ohio, and St. Joseph County in northern Indiana.

Using a consumer survey approach, the researchers tested whether grass-covered lots are valued more highly by developers, real estate agents and home buyers than bare lots. Although developers placed little value on differences in appearance, real estate agents and home buyers placed a much higher value on grass-covered lots. In the study, home buyers perceived grassed lots to be worth $750 more than comparable bare lots.

"This increase in value is more than double the cost of seeding a residential lot, giving a 150 percent return on investment" said Martha Herzog, a Purdue graduate student in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science who was the lead researcher on the project. "For a 100-lot site, seeding can increase the profit on the development by $45,000."

John Law, resource specialist with the St. Joseph Soil and Water Conservation District, says covering undeveloped lots with grass also may help developers comply with local or state regulations.

"Most construction sites are required to have erosion control by state or local regulations," he says. "In this case, meeting regulatory requirements also makes good business sense."

His comments were echoed by Herzog in her study, who cited findings from an environmental study by Jon Harbor, Purdue associate professor of earth and atmospheric science, that showed widespread seeding and mulching on a residential construction site reduced soil erosion by up to 86 percent.

"Soil erosion from construction sites is a significant cause of surface water quality degradation in the United States, particularly in developing areas," Harbor said. "Construction sites are a major source of pollution because as land is exposed and disturbed, soil erosion rates are dramatically increased. Much of the displaced sediment eventually reaches waterways where sedimentation can alter the physical and biological characteristics of streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs."

Keith McClintock, district program administrator at the Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District, said: ""This is a win-win situation. In addition to increased profits, grass cover helps prevent soil erosion problems that are often associated with poorly managed construction sites."

The research group now is tracking the sale of seeded and unseeded lots in the same areas to determine the actual differences in the selling prices and in how quickly the lots sell.

The project is supported by a grant from the Great Lakes Commission.

CONTACTS: Herzog, (765) 494-0258; Harbor, (765) 494-9610; e-mail,

Students taught to manage biases on the job

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A college education is designed to broaden minds and expand critical thinking, but it also should teach us how to better monitor what we say. This is especially true on the job, where a conversation about a popular television show can move very quickly from around the water cooler to a court of law.

That's precisely the premise of Gender and Diversity in Management, a senior-level course offered by Purdue University's School of Technology.

"We can't change prejudices with just one class, but we can teach students to manage their biases," explains Janet Achor, associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision. "Lack of tolerance and insensitivity to these kinds of issues can cost you your job."

Gender and Diversity in Management is one of dozens of diversity-related courses offered at Purdue, but its applications for the workplace and the "no holds barred" approach of the instructor make it a popular elective. Achor opens each semester by leading students through a series of questions, the answers to which invariably result in both teacher and students admitting their own prejudices to each other.

"It's a pretty explosive exercise," Achor acknowledges. "But it's designed to get their attention, and the results are accurate and true. We are all prisoners of our past experiences."

Achor started teaching the course in 1986 in response to a need she saw among female students in the School of Technology, home of the Department of Organizational Leadership and Supervision.

"We were finding that young women in our field weren't equipped to deal with the realities of the workplace in terms of gender issues," Achor explains. "Since then the class has evolved into a seminar on diversity, which includes race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic class and education, as well as gender. I also work on issues such as age, language, culture, ethnicity and the concept of time."

The goal of the course is to increase knowledge and awareness, foster appropriate attitudes and assumptions, and eliminate stereotyping, all of which have been shown to improve employee morale, boost productivity and increase creativity in the workplace.

Achor uses a variety of media to spark discussion, ranging from textbooks to popular films to role-playing. She calls the format a potpourri of things designed to make students think, regardless of how narrow or broad their previous experiences may be.

"Most students come into the course believing in the concept of America as a 'melting-pot,' but I urge them to think of it more as a salad," Achor says. "Each ingredient is distinct and retains its own flavor regardless of how much the salad gets tossed."

Because of the nature of the subject matter and the seminar format of the course, Achor says it's important to balance the numbers of men and women in the two classes offered each semester.

"Having an equal number of men and women helps give some balance to the dialogue," Achor says. "We get into some sensitive issues, and it's important that students be comfortable in the discussions."

Though not required for students in the School of Technology, both sections are always filled within the first week of registration.

"It's a popular elective because students recognize the value of this kind of information," Achor says. "They realize that the world extends quite a distance beyond their own backyard."

CONTACT: Achor, (765) 494-7989; e-mail,

Ag education: It's not just for farmers anymore

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- What do landscape architects, zookeepers, food technologists and forest rangers have in common? Chances are it's a degree in agriculture.

A strong and varied job market is getting some of the credit for the increasing number of students signing up for classes in Purdue University's School of Agriculture.

"We've noted a decade-long rise in enrollment, and it corresponds directly with the number and kinds of jobs available," explains Allan Goecker, assistant dean and associate director of academic programs. "Ten years ago there were 1,655 undergraduates in the School of Agriculture, while 1997 enrollment figures show 2,539 students. And that number is up 63 from just a year ago."

Goecker says the job market for agribusiness positions, technical fields, natural resources and environmental management is particularly strong. Companies in these areas are seeking employees with a strong agricultural and science education, and they are increasingly looking at Purdue. A recent agriculture career fair drew 97 businesses to the West Lafayette campus -- 28 more than attended the same event a year ago.

"This is one of the strongest colleges of agriculture in the United States, but being a good school is just part of it," Goecker says. "You still need students to take on challenging roles after graduation. If an employer does well with one graduate, they often return to hire others."

In a professional employment survey of 1997 Purdue ag graduates, the average starting salary for all degree fields was $27,621. Agricultural and food process engineering graduates reported the highest average beginning salaries at $38,378. Food science graduates commanded starting salaries of about $33,000 and had a 96 percent placement rate.

The Department of Food Science will move into a new $26 million building next summer. Classrooms and laboratories are expected to be ready for use for the 1998 fall semester.

CONTACT: Goecker, (765) 494-8473; home, (765) 463-1269; e-mail,

Compiled by Kate Walker, (765) 494-2073; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,


Which lot would you choose? A Purdue University study finds that homebuyers perceive a seeded lot to be worth $750 more than a comparable bare lot. These lots, in Walden Oaks subdivision in Geauga County, Ohio, are identical in size, though the grassy lot may produce a larger profit for the developer. (Photos by Jon Harbor)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Harbor.Lots
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