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  • James Hewetson-Brown, Managing Director

Supporting urban biodiversity: what does it take?

With an ever-increasing emphasis on the importance of raising the profile of biodiversity within the construction industry, this year’s CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards have been keenly contested with finalists recently shortlisted and voting for the BIG Biodiversity Champion 2018 - now open.

Now in its 5th year, the BIG Biodiversity Challenge invites the construction industry to add at least one new biodiversity enhancement to construction sites, developments or existing buildings. With 2018 entries drawn from the likes of Skanska, Network Rail and Scottish and Southern Electricity, just to name a few, it is clear that engaging with the biodiversity agenda is of great concern, and indeed importance, to organisations up and down the country.

But how does engagement translate in real terms after the awards have finished for another year?

As overall prize sponsor for the BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards, Wildflower Turf Ltd are immensely proud of our ongoing involvement with CIRIA and are passionate about supporting and encouraging action that promotes and improves biodiversity within the urban environment.

Last year’s overall winners, the RG Group, are construction specialists primarily focused on the Living Space, Retail and Commercial sectors. Their 2017 winning submission saw them receive 200m² of Wildflower Turf Landscape Turf alongside specialist consultancy from the Wildflower Turf Ltd team and two spaces on our highly acclaimed Accredited Partners Programme.

Courtyard area, before the enhancement works

With ecological considerations firmly at the forefront of their minds, the RG Group chose to utilise their prize to enhance the environment of a very important urban biodiversity project in Bristol. Formally offices and now a new Unite Students property, Brunel House in Bristol will house 246 students who will also enjoy a landscape that offers an urban habitat for insects, bees and other wildlife.

Under the guidance of Colorado Goldwyn, RG Group Environmental Manager, local wildlife habitats have been protected and extended with the project on track to receive an ‘Excellent’ BREEAM rating. Colorado introduced the idea of incorporating a wildflower meadow within the landscaping design with a specific focus on assisting the rare Carrot Mining Bee and Small Blue Butterfly. In collaboration with the RSPB, a number of other recommended ecological initiatives were also defined and adopted as part of the design.

The project was very much a collaborative effort and meeting of minds with Olivia Damsell from FPCR Environment and Design Ltd designing the site and Jon King and his team from East Midlands Landscaping Ltd installing the Wildflower Turf to specification. Likewise, Gill Perkins of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust was instrumental in providing assistance to the team.

The ability to enhance the biodiversity credentials of this new development has met with much praise with local MP’s (both Species Champions themselves) and community members showing a real interest in the outcome of the landscaping project.

Courtyard area, after enhancement works

As well as providing an exceptionally attractive aesthetic, wildflower meadows are proven to help improve air quality, regulate urban temperatures and reduce C02 in the environment, as well as the obvious biodiversity benefits that they offer the invertebrate population.

The ecological prosperity that a wildflower meadow can bring cannot be understated, and urban biodiversity projects such as this stretch widely to encompass both social and health benefits. It is anticipated that the local student population will benefit, not only from the beautifully landscaped areas that will promote wellbeing and social interaction, but by gaining a sense of responsibility as they become interested in, and involved with, the protection of local wildlife.

Wildflower Turf Ltd very much look forward to supporting this year’s BIG Biodiversity Challenge Award Overall Winner to further their biodiversity credentials and may we take this opportunity to congratulate all entrants and finalists on the outstanding levels of commitment shown.

A continued focus on encouraging sustainable urban biodiversity projects and the incorporation of wildflower meadows into urban greenspace is essential to ensure the future of habitats for our wildlife. This is an important challenge, may we all rise to the occasion.

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