Barratt wants half of all its southern Californian developments to be on brownfield land within five years. Its existing operation has two regeneration schemes under construction in San Diego.
David Pretty, chief executive at Barratt, said: "Generally, large US housebuilders don't get involved in brownfield. It's unusual for us to be trailblazing."
American planners are welcoming the brownfield approach, according to Pretty. He said: "Southern California has a similar situation to the UK, with restricted supply owing to planning constraints. But we're finding that US planners have a positive attitude to urban renewal."
The San Diego schemes are a 138-luxury apartment scheme on the site of two redundant hotels in coastal La Jolla, just north of the city, and a 184-apartment scheme on a former telephone exchange site in the East Village area.
The La Jolla scheme, called Seahaus, is due for completion in the summer of next year, and the East Village scheme, called Metrome, is due for completion in late 2005 or early 2006.
Seahaus has just been brought to the market with apartments being priced between £350,000 and £1m.
Both schemes have been designed by local architects and are being built by external contractors. Pretty said: "We will train up our own construction guys and undertake construction ourselves in the future."
Barratt American was founded in 1958 and the Californian product to date has been conventional one- and two-storey detached estate houses.
The US business, called Morrison Homes, was 35% ahead in revenue on the first quarter of last year.