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  • Suzanne Simmons

Sharing the love between biodiversity and construction

In recognising the potential but also the vulnerability of biodiversity in the construction process, CIRIA established the Biodiversity Interest Group (BIG) back in 2012. The aim of BIG is to encourage collaboration and dialogue between our member organisations and those involved in biodiversity. Ecologists and specialists from member organisations sit on the BIG group and we bring in supporting expertise when needed to balance and inform.

It was in the spirit of collaboration and a quest for the best outcomes in delivery of the built environment, that the BIG Biodiversity Challenge was established to reinforce positive interactions between the construction industry and nature; to support the industry in recognising opportunities for maintaining, increasing and understanding biodiversity during the construction process. In doing so it is anticipated that the construction industry will develop better grass roots connections to the sites they are working on and develop understanding how their developments can impact on the natural environment during the construction programme and beyond. This also applies to those who are on site physically delivering the project, those who are often the most disconnected from decisions regarding biodiversity and sustainability.

Invariably alterations to land will lead to changes in biodiverse habitats. These changes may result in an altered state that accommodates development without compromising biodiversity, or they may be negative, even destructive. Without interventions along the entire chain of design, planning, construction, handover and maintenance, opportunities for biodiversity can be lost and developments can fragment uncelebrated but precious habitats. Getting everyone on board in the construction process is vital, not only to educate those on the outside, but to illuminate those on the inside of the construction industry. If awareness of biodiversity becomes the norm within construction processes, then this can potentially lead to more integrated and collaborative developments, with improved connectivity of biodiverse networks beyond the life of the construction programme.

CIRIA’s BIG Biodiversity Challenge, now in its 4th year, aims to bring the two sectors of construction and biodiversity, together in recognition that what may seem on the surface to be opposites (construction or destruction), can often be mutually dependant on many levels. Developments happen, and developers need high quality site investigations to deliver the best outcomes that meet planning requirements but also to fulfil their corporate, social and sustainability responsibilities. The BIG Biodiversity awards encourages more from the construction industry than paying lip service to meeting legal responsibilities; BIG’s aspiration is for biodiversity to be considered at every stage of the construction process. As a principal user of ecological expertise and data it is the in the construction industry’s best interests to collaborate and work with the right experts and nature wherever possible.

Previous winners of CIRIA’s BIG Biodiversity Challenge have engaged with local community organisations on their changing environment; introduced new habitats such as bird and bat boxes, insect hotels; have created temporary interventions; have constructed innovative multi purposing of major coastal infrastructure to encourage colonisation and regeneration; and made clever use of waste material on site to develop specific habitats. The greatest benefits we see emerging are when the construction industry works with ecologists either as part of their in-house team or as part of the wider collaborative planning and development process.

In short this is a call for you to collaborate with your construction industry colleagues to encourage them to do one thing for biodiversity, to share the ethos of the BIG Biodiversity Awards with your networks and to take the BIG Biodiversity Challenge! Entries close on 12 June.

Getting involved is simple

We are looking forward to seeing the range of entries over the coming weeks and making the announcements at our Awards ceremony on 14th September. Good luck!

Suzanne Simmons, CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge Project Manager

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