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  • Jonathon Hook, Murphy

Nature and people go hand in hand!

Construction and biodiversity are not words that have been well associated together over the years. However, with the UK construction industry and society generally becoming increasingly conscious of the loss of biodiversity, the effects of climate change and the detrimental impact this has on our ecosystems, is the construction industry now turning a corner?

I believe we are finally moving in the right direction. Organisations within the construction industry cannot ignore the major shift in perception of the environment and sustainability from stakeholders, media and general public. Employees now want to work for responsible employers, that makes positive contributions to the environment and to the communities that they work in and this is clear to see with the increased weight behind Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

Working within the rail and infrastructure environment, the linear landscape offers a corridor of thriving wildlife and environmentally designated sites such as SSSI’s and Nature Reserves. Having the opportunity to influence designs, promote and drive nature-based solutions and explore greener engineering within this landscape is always rewarding as environmental practitioner.

I recently visited a pre-project start up meeting between Murphy and our subcontractors and was amazed by the topical discussions and questions raised relating to environmental protection and concerns for local wildlife which was evidentially at the forefront of some key decisions. A decade into this industry, this was a first.

Whilst I have confidence in working for a responsible employer, it doesn’t stop there, we also want to work for a responsible client too. It is encouraging to see Network Rail (NR) aligning their values with my team and that of my employer. NR are setting clear objectives such as no net loss in biodiversity to lineside estate by 2024 and achieving a biodiversity net gain of 10% in each region by 2035[1]. NR’s commitment underpins the ambition set by the UK government by supporting Nature Recovery Network (policy paper) and the mandatory 10% biodiversity net gain and green spacing for construction works outside of permitted development, which will be mandated by local planning authorities this November.

The targets and commitments mentioned above can only be achieved by collaborations between the numerous stakeholders in any organisation, and with the right attitude to drive change from top to bottom. This is why it is essential to have commitment and engagement from the start of any project. We must collaborate to challenge the status quo to achieve biodiversity net gain and reap the rewards together: Trudy Harrison, Nature Minister said: “Biodiversity net gain will bring nature closer to where people live, creating greener and more beautiful communities”.[2]

The BIG Biodiversity Challenge applications this year certainly ticked the boxes of bringing nature and people together! I was inspired to see so many influential and innovative applications during this year’s judging panel; also to see individual accolades up for grabs . As we enter the “green job boom”, young green professionals entering the construction industry are able to witness projects and individuals being rewarded nationally via CIRIA for their contribution to biodiversity and communities, evidencing biodiversity and the construction industry can thrive together, making it an attractive industry generally.

I strongly believe biodiversity should be considered as an integral part of sustainable development in the built environment. Nature and people go hand in hand, and by protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the built environment, the construction industry can not only comply with legal and policy requirements, but also deliver multiple benefits for communities and our climate. These benefits include improved health and well-being, climate resilience, social cohesion, economic value, and environmental quality, is this not a win- win?!


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