Building for biodiversity: Reimagining construction through cross-pollination

The world needs biodiversity. Everything in nature is connected, and the fine balance between species is essential for their – and our – survival. Balanced ecosystems provide us with oxygen, food, clean water, health, and beauty. Green spaces in cities reduce heat stress, absorb water, fight pests, and help us unwind as we enjoy them.

While the advantages of healthy ecosystems are numerous, landscapes and biodiversity in the Netherlands are under pressure: through our growing number of inhabitants, economic development, and climate change. The construction sector is responsible for a significant share of this problem. New roads fragment landscapes, and construction projects usually – unintentionally – find no connection with the ecosystems in which they’re being built.

Together with VolkerWessels, the Province of South Holland and research institute Naturalis, we created project Cross-pollinators for solutions to make biodiversity ‘the new normal’ in construction. Our partners in this project have been Art Partner and Openers. We co-created the approach as one team.

Lacking imagination

Even though builders and governments hold good intentions, real action often fails to materialise. Everyone seems to be waiting for toolkits, top-down decisions, and most importantly, for each other. Underlying this impasse, we found a lack of imagination with all parties involved about how things could be done better. What could a nature-inclusive environment look like? What benefits could this bring? We had to fix this.

Cross-pollination through co-creation

In collaboration with experts from various disciplines (builders, governments, ecologists, landscape architects, artists, marketers, etc.), we searched in a four-day fast-track for solutions that could stimulate imagination within organisations. This co-creative process was a big part of the solution. By having disciplines thinking together, cross-pollination happened between all parties, which led to new solutions.

A prototype for change

The results of the project have been twofold:

First, a quick start guide for nature inclusive building. A practical manual with which clients and construction companies can work on a green ambition, through a very concrete workshop approach that fuels the imagination.

Second, a prototype for maximum biodiversity. Together with the city of Rotterdam, VolkerWessels co-creatively develops a “Biotwin” of a large housing development project: A variant in which biodiversity is included as much as possible in the planning phase, setting an ambitious example for new projects.

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Frédérique Moolenbeek

Senior Strategist

Tim Ramsche

Tim Ramsche

Strategist

Martijn Pater

Founder

Elisabeth den Heeten

Connector