Built-up urban areas can sometimes feel a bit like a concrete jungle. And when the most visible form of wildlife is a pigeon it’s no wonder that this ‘disconnect’ with nature can have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of city dwellers. In fact, the biophilia hypothesis suggests that one of our strongest tendencies as humans is our intrinsic love of nature. We need to interact with nature to keep us happy!
So how do we promote this in an urban setting?
For many years biodiversity has been an area of focus where we have wanted to make a positive impact. We have a corporate commitment which looks to maximise biodiversity across our portfolio. This is important not just for the health and wellbeing of our customers but also because we understand the vital role biodiversity and nature itself plays in providing clean air, water, food and raw materials that businesses and communities need to thrive.
In London we have created a number of green walls, working with specialist Biotecture, at New Street Square, 62 Buckingham Gate and 20 Fenchurch Street. These are a perfect example of how you can enrich an area with limited space as well as providing important plant and insect ecosystems in the urban environment. Not only do these walls promote biodiversity and improve air quality they also look beautiful!
As part of the Westgate Oxford shopping centre development we are working to greatly improve green infrastructure with particular emphasis on harnessing the native and natural ecosystems, providing shelter and habitats for birds and insects.
At St David’s, Cardiff, we have created a bee-friendly habitat on the roof and there are around 60,000 bees living there. This is not just great for the environment it also has potential health benefits. We have been working in collaboration with Pollen8 and Cardiff University, providing them with honey to support their research on medicinal honey and its antibacterial properties.
At Bluewater, we’ve run a number of environmental days engaging the local community and educating them about the rare and protected species and habitats on site which are incredibly diverse. They even have resident bats and held a ‘going batty at Bluewater’ event for World Environment Day back in June.
Community engagement is really important to us, it is crucial when raising awareness and that is why we sponsored this year’s CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge ‘Community Engagement’ Award. Launched in 2013, these awards provide a great opportunity for companies within the construction industry to demonstrate what brilliant things they have done to promote and enhance biodiversity.
This year’s winner was the Morpeth Northern Bypass Education Hub and Programme, supported by Carillion and local ecologist EcoNorth. The Hub was created to be both a virtual and physical classroom where ecological enhancements could be used to engage and educate the local community and stakeholders. The physical projects included bee waterers, mammal shelves, vegetation maintenance and bat boxes. People from all ages across the community, including junior schools, universities and local groups were engaged highlighting the importance of biodiversity on a larger scale. There was strong competition but the Hub was a truly worthy winner!
It’s worth reminding ourselves that biodiversity is not just important for promoting positive ecosystems it can also bring a range of social and commercial benefits…and of course it keeps us feeling that little bit happier!