sealPurdue News

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. The grass-covered lot also will profit the environment.

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.

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" says 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."

Herzog coupled her findings with a 2-year-old environmental study completed 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 and significantly reduced the levels of phosphorus washed into to nearby rivers. The study was published in the journal Physical Geography.

"Soil erosion from construction sites is a significant cause of surface water quality degradation in the United States, particularly in developing areas," Harbor says. "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."

Though most construction sites are required by state or local regulations to take measures to control erosion, the regulations don't apply to residential lots of less than five acres that are not part of a larger development, Harbor says.

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.

"What we're trying to do with this study is show that taking measures to control erosion also makes good business sense," Harbor says.

The participating Soil and Water Conservation Districts are in Geauga County, Ohio, and St. Joseph County in northern Indiana.

Herzog's project was supported by a grant from the Great Lakes Commission.

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

Compiled by Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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