Adding or preserving trees, plants and habitats is an opportunity for construction

Louise Clark

As Vern Pitt highlighted in his post on what sustainability holds for 2014, I agree that biodiversity will be its “bold new frontier”.  

The debate around biodiversity offsetting will raise greater awareness of biodiversity and I think it’s time that the industry really understood the importance of this subject. 

According to the WWF, global consumption of natural resources is 25% more than the planet can sustain and as a result species, habitats and local communities are under threat. As our understanding of climate change increases and we begin to experience and question the more extreme weather conditions, there is growing acceptance that we need to create more resilient towns and cities.

Research demonstrates that people like to live on tree lined streets and have access to green space and that green space can even improve patient health

Biodiversity needs to become a greater consideration as it is fundamental to increasing such resilience. Trees, plants and habitats help to improve air quality, manage water sustainably, reduce the urban heat island effect and can cut energy consumption.

Traditionally, biodiversity can be an afterthought in the built environment and is rarely considered as an integral part of the project. This is because, unless it is a protected species or habitat, the inclusion of any biodiversity measure is voluntary. However, it needs to be seen as an opportunity rather than an obstacle to construction. 

The incorporation of biodiversity measures can have multiple benefits because it can help engage the local community with the construction site which can help towards improving the image of construction. It can also help to engage employees and create innovation. This has been demonstrated on the Kings Cross site as the contractors have found opportunities to incorporate biodiversity during the construction stage by installing a temporary green wall and creating skip gardens. Some of the disused skips have been planted with vegetables, which has resulted in a local cafe being set up on the site for the construction staff and local community.

Research demonstrates that people like to live on tree lined streets and have access to green space and that green space can even improve patient health in hospitals if they have access to it or can see it. 

However, it can often be daunting to know where to start and how to incorporate biodiversity into developments. We need to start to share knowledge and experience of how it can be done, including the different approaches that have been taken to enable it to happen.

Louise Clarke chairs the 2025 Group and sits on the Construction Industry Leadership Council


  • CIRIA has recently launched an initiative to encourage companies to start to think about biodiversity – the BIG Challenge. The idea is to add one new biodiversity enhancement on each site or development. It can be something simple, such as adding hanging baskets with native wildflowers or creating ‘bug hotels’.