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  • Andy Haigh, Sir Robert McAlpine

Realising the benefits of biodiversity in construction


With ever increasing evidence on the multitude of benefits that biodiversity brings - from the micro-climatic, to the mental and physical - it is of vital importance that we include space for biodiversity in the buildings and cities of the future. New construction projects give us a unique opportunity to improve the biodiversity of the communities in which we operate, and awards such as the BIG Biodiversity Challenge help recognise those that do so, as well as driving the industry to do more.

At Sir Robert McAlpine, increasing biodiversity is one of our 12 key sustainability targets as we aim to become the sustainable contractor of choice by 2019 – our 150th year in business. Many projects don’t have ecologists or ecology plans, so to help us achieve our target we have developed a tool for our teams to use on every project to assess how and to what extent they have increased biodiversity.

While the projects that we work on are designed to last many generations, the process of construction has an acute and immediate impact on the communities in which we operate. So it is important that we do not solely focus on permanent improvements in biodiversity, but also temporary measures that can have an immediate positive impact on the surrounding community. This is something that we at Sir Robert McAlpine take very seriously and is why we sponsored the “temporary” award category at the CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards.

This year, “Of Soil and Water: the King’s Cross Pond Club” won the award. This great project was the result of a section 106 obligation for the redevelopment of King’s Cross to include a publicly accessible art installation. The project quickly focused on the development and delivery of a 40m long, natural, chemical-free pond that is purified through a natural closed-loop process, using wetland and submerged plants to filter and sustainably clean and clear water. The project helped engage the local community through school and university interaction, and attract visitors from further afield to learn about the benefits of urban freshwater ecosystems. All in all a truly inspirational project which takes a creative and innovative approach to the promotion of biodiversity.

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