Building with Nature

March 30th, 2021

A new benchmark for building beautiful places

The benefits of carefully designed open spaces and green infrastructure, catering for both wildlife and peoples’ health and well-being, is well documented. However, the global pandemic has acutely highlighted the importance of access to open spaces, not just for recreation and exercise but to bring people closer to nature. The pandemic has resulted in a shift in our work-life patterns, with working from home becoming the new normal and our movements often restricted to one trip outside a day for exercise. The impact of these restrictions has been most keenly felt in our urban areas, where development is denser and access to open spaces and gardens is more limited. The implications of the pandemic on our future lifestyles and work patterns cannot be fully understood yet.  However, our priorities are likely to change, with less emphasis on travel for work, and more emphasis on access to the outdoors and our immediate environment.

There is also growing emphasis in emerging government policy, on the importance of beauty in our new developments, and the need to build well designed, sustainable places for the future. This is encapsulated in the work of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, whose report ‘Living with Beauty’ is informing the Government’s current direction of travel in respect of planning where we live in the future. This report stresses the need to re-green our towns and cities, and the value of greenery for our mental and physical health.

In addition, the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan sets out its goal to leave the environment in a measurably better state than when it found it, and to achieve this within a single generation. This objective is supported by the Environment Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament. Once this legislation is passed, it will be a mandatory requirement for all new developments to achieve a minimum 10 percent net-gain in biodiversity. To do this, development proposals will need to ensure that they make space for nature and biodiversity enhancements.

All this has implications for how new development is delivered. Increasingly, there will be more emphasis on design and places which have a distinct sense of place.  Well thought out, multi-functional open spaces will be a fundamental part of meeting the aspirations of potential new homeowners, as well as delivering the goals of government policy. Green infrastructure proposals will need to be truly multi-functional, providing space for recreation and play, delivering a net gain for biodiversity, and accommodating drainage features within the landscape to catch surface water runoff from the development. New tree planting will need to be resilient to climate change, and provide areas of shade and well as greening our urban areas.  Community infrastructure, such as allotments, orchards and gardens should also be considered for the health benefits that they provide, and to address local shortfalls in provision.

The delivery of high quality open spaces and green infrastructure is supported by the Building with Nature standards. Building with Nature provides a new benchmark for assessing the performance of green infrastructure in proposals for development. It is increasingly being seen by developers and policy makers as an effective tool for demonstrating best practice in the delivery of green infrastructure, and supports the objective of high quality place making.  It is based around the central themes of wellbeing, water and wildlife and aims to ensure that schemes deliver for both people and wildlife. At a time when government initiatives and a shift in peoples’ priorities is emphasising the importance of design and the environment, Building with Nature accreditation sets the benchmark for the delivery of open spaces which provide attractive, liveable developments that encourage healthy and sustainable lifestyles, and deliver a net gain for biodiversity.

CSA’s BwN Approved Assessors can help achieve accreditation for new developments. See our web page on Building with Nature for more information.