Like greenfield, the term brownfield can be traced back to construction planning and is now used as an analogy in other areas. A brownfield is not an open “greenfield” site, but refers to a brownfield site that is constrained by its previous use and/or pre-existing structures. While greenfield describes development and construction in open, unencumbered space, brownfield projects must therefore take existing conditions into account. In the industrial sector, for example, this would mean the transformation of conventional, already existing manufacturing facilities into a digital smart factory.
Brownfield projects are usually more challenging than greenfield projects, because the innovations are limited by existing structures or technologies, have to be adapted to them and be compatible with them. Since the conditions in each environment are different, individual solutions have to be worked out in each case. In most cases, this is done in a step-by-step process during ongoing operations. Brownfield approaches are more common in reality, despite these challenges, because of the demand for adaptation to rapidly advancing digitalisation and changing market conditions.