Two and a half years ago I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the very first steps toward the now ‘Building with Nature’ Standards, recently launched by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. These standards have been a long time coming and are a fantastic medium to support the creation of high-quality green infrastructure throughout the planning and development process – whilst also ensuring those inspiring designs and aspirations actually transpire into reality.
What is Green Infrastructure?
Green Infrastructure is something that, since learning of it in my career changing MSc, I have become immensely captivated by. What exactly is it I hear you ask? Well, the definition according to edie.net’s new Jargon Buster is:
“Nature harnessed to provide important services for businesses and communities by protecting them against flooding or excessive heat, or helping to improve air, soil and water quality.”
Another definition from our UK Government is:
“Green infrastructure is a network of multifunctional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities.”
Why is ‘Building with Nature’ a big deal?
Government policy requires all developments to demonstrate inclusion of green infrastructure into their plans and Building with Nature (BwN) aims to provide a benchmark to meet such requirements. Developed as a collaboration between Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and the University of the West of England’s Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments, the benchmark not only encompasses the planning and design stages but also has a strong emphasis on the implementation and long-term maintenance of green infrastructure features. This encourages developers and policymakers to aspire to go above and beyond their traditional methods to deliver exceptional developments that can support and withstand growing populations, climate change and resource scarcity, whilst also bringing economic prosperity.
The benchmark covers three key themes – water, wellbeing and wildlife. These three core elements of effective green infrastructure implementation not only support the significant increase of biodiversity within an urban setting but also mitigate the impacts of climate change and long-term sustainability of water, avoiding climatic flooding and water pollution. All the while, creating spaces where people and economies thrive, communities feel safe and healthy living for both body and mind is encouraged.
The standards guide both developers and policymakers through the mass of information that currently exists on green infrastructure, as well as enabling community groups to understand what it means for them. Their accreditation covers three levels, Candidate, Achieved and Excellent. These encompass Core standards to meet a baseline expectation, along with a wide pool of further standards that encourage exemplar projects and allow the right green infrastructure elements to be chosen to suit the project or policy. The standards also encourage applications for an award at any stage in the development process.
Tried and tested
The standards have been tried and tested across the South West, Worcestershire and Wales with a number of successful case studies already accredited at varying levels. These include:
- Gloucester Services, a pioneering motorway services facility on the M5 which has been awarded the post-construction “achieved” status. This reflects its approach to integrating green infrastructure features on site, building the facility into the surrounding landscape with its impressive green roof, and wetland and meadow areas.
- Elderberry Walk, a development that will comprise 161 homes on the site of a former school, by HAB Housing.
- Chesterton Farm, a mixed-use development comprising 2,350 residential dwellings, business units and community facilities on a greenfield site, by Bathurst Development Limited.
- Elms Park, a joint venture between Bloor Homes and Persimmon Homes, that will see mixed-use development in Cheltenham, comprising 4,115 homes, plus business space for up to 5,000 new jobs.
What’s next for BwN and how to find out more
These are very exciting times for the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and I have been very proud to be a very small part of their great achievement to date, utilising my company CSR days (Corporate Social Responsibility) to review and share input into the BwN guidance documents you can find here. This project is a real step forward in the change we need to see within our future cities and local planning policy documents.
With the official launch of BwN on the 9th November 2017, they are now rolling the benchmark out across the UK in association with the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), with uptake already as far as Scotland. If you are interested in the scheme or want a little more information about how to apply and fees involved, contact Dr Gemma Jerome, BwN Project Manager on 07715 563112 and firstname.lastname@example.org