World Environment Day 2020 – Biodiversity

Hayley Marks
World Environment Day is celebrated on 5th June every year. It is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment, exploring a different theme each year. The theme for 2020 is Biodiversity: Together we can act #ForNature.

Biodiversity describes the variety of life on Earth. It encompasses the eight million species on the planet. It can be seen as an intricate web, in which each part is interdependent. When one component is changed, the entire system is affected, and this can produce positive, or negative, consequences. Biodiversity is the foundation of supporting life on Earth. This environment day, we are being asked to take a step back and consider how we can engage with biodiversity at a personal, work and community level. We all have a part to play.

How does this link to the Construction Industry?

The construction industry is one of the leading industries in changings land-use. Between 2006 and 2012, an estimated 22,000 hectares of green space was converted into artificial surfaces in the UK alone. 7,000 hectares of this was woodland areas [UK Green Building Council]. Working in this industry therefore means that we have an undeniable opportunity to utilise and enhance biodiversity in a responsible way, looking ahead to the future, not just the here and now.

Over the years, there has been an ever-increasing awareness and industry engagement in minimising negative environmental impacts, sustainable development and the journey to Net Zero Carbon. The construction industry is constantly adapting and evolving to support this transition.

What is being done?  

Globally, we have been seeing the rise of innovative green infrastructure solutions, particularly in urban settings, in an attempt to increase biodiversity of a space. Examples include: green roofs, vertical gardens and living walls. As clients, projects and design teams engage with biodiversity, these innovative solutions will continue to be developed.

At Faithful+Gould, we work with clients and design teams to ensure that biodiversity is being considered on projects, through environmental rating schemes such as Home Quality Mark and BREEAM. These schemes have developed to show an increasing importance on biodiversity in building design and construction. A new BREEAM scheme is released by the Building Research Establishment approximately every 4-years. The last issue was published in 2018. In this updated issue, the land-use and ecology credit section had a greater weighting on the BREEAM rating than previous editions. It also requires the appointment of an Ecologist as early in the project as possible, to enhance opportunities for positively influencing ecology. This has prompted clients and design teams to place greater importance on not only preserving existing ecological features, but also considering a longer-term outlook to enhance and monitor site ecology. The next release of BREEAM is expected to place an even greater importance on land-use and ecology, to reflect the developments in the industry. 

Clients are looking deeper into supply chains, green financing, their sustainable policies, and engaging in longer-term monitoring strategies. What’s more, we are seeing our clients actively engaging in methods to curb biodiversity loss and ensure the preservation of natural resources. An example being the Met Office where an extensive green wall was implemented, consisting largely of local plant species. Royal Holloway University Emily Wilding Davison Building also prioritised biodiversity through their commitment to produce a five-year landscape and habitat management plan. The plan committed to wildflower and native shrub planting, alongside implementing numerous bat boxes, bird boxes and log piles to attract local wildlife onto the campus.