The importance of biodiversity

Laura Boccadamo, Group Sustainability Manager at Berkeley Group writes on why as an organisation they are committed to creating a net biodiversity gain on every new development.
Cator Park, Kidbrooke Village

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February 12, 2019

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Biodiversity and green infrastructure plays an important role in our everyday lives: it provides us with somewhere to walk the dog, exercise or play, and somewhere to meet friends and relax. It can help us feel calm and happy, bring people together and create a sense of identity and belonging. It can also feed our families, and generates economic value in a myriad of ways.

There are also a number of invisible benefits to biodiversity. For example, it can help to cleanse the air, clean water, and cool our cities. This can help reduce the risk of water shortages, flooding and overheating, and in doing so provide resilience to climate change – an ever more important topic in a warming world.

Despite this, biodiversity continues to decrease at an alarming rate. New development can help to reverse this trend, by providing the opportunity to incorporate green infrastructure and enhance biodiversity.

Our commitment to net biodiversity gain

The Berkeley Group is passionate about creating wonderful homes and strong communities that stand the test of time. A key part of this is building truly sustainable places that support people’s wellbeing and strengthen the natural environment.

Creating nature on our developments has always been important to us, however we wanted to do more and so, in 2016, became the first UK homebuilder to commit to creating a net biodiversity gain on every new development, regardless of the site’s scale, context or former use. This means there will always be more nature after Berkeley has finished its work, than before we began.

To do this, we first needed to establish a way of measuring biodiversity. We worked with leading environmental consultants to develop a biodiversity toolkit which enables us to calculate, enhance and manage the habitats on site.

We also wanted to provide our teams with overarching design principles, ideas and inspiration to help them deliver biodiverse places and so created a guide called The Nine Concepts: Making space for nature and beauty. It helps us take a holistic approach to landscape design by thinking about concepts such as connectivity, links to the community, and local ecological character and distinctiveness. We encourage you to take a look.

We now use our toolkit on all of our new sites to help us quantify and manage biodiversity, and raise awareness of the value it brings. At the same time, our net biodiversity gain commitment has also prompted some existing developments to revisit their planting and landscaping.

Kidbrooke Village wetlands project with the London Wildlife Trust

Located within London’s Zone 3, Kidbrooke Village is a large urban regeneration project set to deliver 4,800 homes, shops, health facilities, restaurants, offices, community facilities and new open spaces. As part of the early phases of the project, an area of parkland was delivered.

Inspired by the commitment and work on biodiversity, the project team wanted to do more to enhance biodiversity. They partnered with the London Wildlife Trust and have been working together to transform the existing parkland into a wetland area to attract wildlife and people. The London Wildlife Trust baselined the biodiversity of the site using our biodiversity toolkit, and created a new landscape strategy that would ensure a net biodiversity gain. The landscaping enhancements were implemented from April 2018, and are transforming the area into a beautiful landscape that offers benefits for wildlife and people.

Internally, our commitment has created a ‘buzz’, as biodiversity and nature is an environmental topic that many of our colleagues can relate to. We even have some colleagues who are now trained bee keepers, tending to the beehives we have on our One Tower Bridge and Goodman’s Fields developments in central London.

Beehives, Goodman’s Fields

 

Beehives, One Tower Bridge

Looking ahead

Our next step is to ensure that our developments deliver the net gains intended and we will continue to work with key organisations at a local level, such as the Wildlife Trusts, to deliver the beautiful landscapes that we have designed.

We hope that our approach demonstrates the value that biodiversity provides and inspires us all to help deliver the Government’s aim of halting the decline of biodiversity, and ultimately reversing it.

For further information and case studies on our approach to net biodiversity gain, please visit our website here.

In addition, they have launched the results of their dive survey findings from their Gold Leaf Member Sustainability 360 review, conducted over the summer of 2018. The report is available here. 

UKGBC have also created a web based actor and resource map of initiatives and government policy within the built environment around biodiversity net gain. The purpose of which is to allow organisations to use existing knowledge and methodologies to successfully implement net gains without repeating the work of others. The actor and resource map is available here.