By Chantal van Ham, European Programme Officer, IUCN European Union Representative Office.
“Urban dwellers have become increasingly disconnected from nature, so that nowadays many of us no longer understand the connection of a healthy ecosystem and healthy cities”.
Kaveh Samiei, an architect and landscape designer at the University of Semnan (Iran), highlights the need for stronger connections between nature and urban architecture in his post on the blog The Nature of Cities.
Urban habitats and species are sometimes considered to be less important than their rural counterparts. Yet cities host a surprisingly rich and diverse natural environment which needs to be protected, also because it provides vital services to citizens, such as food, clean air, recreation or noise reduction.
Increasing urbanisation in Europe and worldwide is contributing to the loss and fragmentation of natural habitats causing the decline of biodiversity. Green architecture in our built environment is one way to help protect and enhance biodiversity. The construction industry has an important role to play in safeguarding green areas and minimising damage to ecology.
According to the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook launched last year during the Conference of the Convention of the Parties for Biological Diversity, “More than 60 percent of the area projected to be urban in 2030 has yet to be built”.
By developing awareness of the values of biodiversity and natural infrastructure in urban planning, IUCN believes that the loss of biodiversity can be reduced and the multiple functions of ecosystems can be restored. Designing our cities and buildings in harmony with ecosystems is a way of helping protect nature. Partnerships with non-conventional players, such as architects and construction companies, can be crucial in this respect.
One of IUCN’s Members in France, La Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) has published a guidance document on biodiversity-friendly construction. The guide provides simple solutions for integrating nesting places for birds in buildings, as well as more complex options, such as the development of green roofs or walls.
There are broad benefits to be gained from applying the principles of ecology to construction practices. The use of ecologically-friendly materials, such as porous pavements, green roofs and non-toxic paint provide the key to connect ecology with an urbanism that is not in contradiction with its environment, leading to a healthy ecosystem for urban citizens as well as flora and fauna.