The Economic Benefits of Green Infrastructure: A Case Study of Lancaster, PA

This case study analyzes the Green Infrastructure Plan released by Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 2011 and estimates quantified benefits for the Plan over a 25-year scenario.The study finds that green infrastructure provides $2.8 million in energy, air quality, and climate related benefits annually, reduced gray infrastructure capital costs by $120 million, and reduced wastewater pumping and treatment costs by $661,000 a year, easily exceeding the costs of implementing green infrastructure.

Using a mixture of green and gray techniques, Lancaster’s plan estimates an average annual stormwater reduction of 1.053 billion gallons addressing increasing risks related to climate change. The plan estimated a total cost of $141 million to implement the green and gray infrastructure proposals and a marginal cost of $77 million for the additional costs of adding green infrastructure to the planned improvement projects. .

Within Lancaster’s combined sewer system area, the case study found that for the 25-year scenario the green infrastructure plan would avoid $120 million in gray infrastructure capital cost. Annual avoided costs were estimated in four categories:

  • Water-related, with $661,000 annual avoided pumping and treatment costs
  • Energy-related, with $592,000 annual avoided electricity use costs and $1,776,000 annual avoided natural gas use costs
  • Air-quality related, with $1,023,000 annual avoided costs from NO2, O3, SO2, and PM-10 reductions
  • Climate change-related, with $786,000 annual avoided costs from CO2 reductions.

The case study also mentions qualitative benefits including reduced urban heat island effect, increased property value, reduced noise pollution, increased recreational opportunities, habitat improvement, improved public education, and community cohesion.

The case study also includes a breakdown of quantified benefits for individual green infrastructure projects within the Lancaster Plan, including Brandon Park, the commercial green street at Walnut and Plum Streets, and the public parking lot on South Plum Street.


Publication Date: February 2014

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