Celebrating Success – a scientific and pragmatic approach

October 8, 2013

A scientific and pragmatic approach has catapulted Next Environmental into leadership position in the successful reclamation of contaminated land site in the Lower Mainland.

Former biology professor Dr. Harm Gross, who also holds an MBA from the University of B.C., founded Next Environmental Inc. 15 years ago and quickly built a reputation for successfully and efficiently reclaiming contaminated land sites in Canada’s most regulated environment.

Next’s first client is symbolic of its pragmatic and groundbreaking approach that has resulted in multimillion dollar land re-developments, some on ‘brownfield’ sites that most experts had deemed worthless. Next was called in when a large developer was attempting to build a North Vancouver business park on a former industrial site. Earlier studies had estimated the cost of cleaning up the 40-acre parcel at up to $90 million. Next did its own studies and concluded, correctly, that the final cost could be less than $3 million. The result: a successful commercial development employing dozens and generating wages and taxes for the community.

Word quickly spread and Next has since been entrusted with some of B.C.’s largest and most complex land remediation projects, including the transformation of the giant Versatile Shipyards on the North Vancouver waterfront into a vibrant retail and residential community; the Canada Line; and the innovative remediation of the old Delta Shake & Shingle landfill, named as the “Canadian 2012 Brownfield of the Year” by the Canadian Urban Institute. Next’s precise modeling of groundwater flows proved that many sites were not contaminated, using rules later embedded in provincial regulations, and allowed groundwater barriers to stop contamination from spreading at other sites.

Working with a crack team of from 18 to 20 staff, Next has scored a number of other regulatory firsts, including a breakthrough on multiple municipal permit approvals that most in the industry thought impossible.

“When we began the provincial regulations on contaminated land covered six pages. Now it represents four binders, each three-inches thick with double-printed pages,” Gross said. He knows because he has read every word. “It is important to understand how the regulations are structured and where the flexibility can be found,” he said.

As a biologist, Gross has a deep understanding of how pollution affects every living thing. As a businessman and a former Scotiabank executive, he works to find the right balance between the environment and the bottom line. Next’s innovative strategies for financing contaminated land, for instance, are now casebook studies in the banking and development industries. “It is often a matter of common sense and calculated risks,” said Gross.

British Columbia’s Environment Ministry lists 9,000 contaminated land sites, and Gross notes more are being added as sunset industries phase into the modern economy. It is Next’s role, he explains, to ensure that transition is as clean and efficient as possible in the timeliest manner.

“We do solutions, not studies,” said Gross from his Burnaby office where a wall of Certificates of Compliance gives evidence of Next’s success. “Our goal is to provide both environmental and economic solutions that our clients, and our ecology, can live with.”

pdficon View article as seen in BIV: NAIOP supplement [Regional Industrial Development Cost Survey – Fall 2013 (pdf)]