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Wienerberger: The Changing Shape of Biodiversity in the Built Environment

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Wienerberger UK and Ireland has launched a new specialist report aimed at architects exploring the role of Eco-habitats in the drive for Biodiversity Net Gain across projects.

The Changing Shape of Biodiversity in the Built Environment has been prepared by environmental specialists at Wienerberger, addressing the challenges faced by the construction industry as they seek to meet enhanced Biodiversity Net Gain requirements.

Why is it important?

The 2019 State of Nature Report shows that urban areas in the UK now hold more species than the countryside, due largely to the provision of essential components for biodiversity. But wildlife is in a state of decline across the UK, with 41% of species declining in numbers since 1970.

Bats have fallen dramatically in numbers over the last 50 years and our most common bat, the common pipistrelle, has declined by almost 70%. House sparrows have declined by around 50% in the same period and are now red-listed as a species of high conservation concern. The number of swifts fell by 53% between 1995 and 2016, and starlings by 66% since the mid-1970s – also red-listed as a bird of high conservation concern.

What can architects do?

Homebuyers and commercial property tenants have become more aware of both the environment as well as their own wellbeing, therefore, buildings that support local wildlife to create better outdoor spaces will become more attractive to buyers and users.

By planning for nature, architects can support developers and building users to reconnect with nature. But this relies on making informed, data-driven decisions on projects which are shaped by early communication and collaboration.

The most important point is that such measures no longer need to be costly or complex. Architects now have access to a wide range of solutions to help achieve the necessary ecological enhancements and ensure Biodiversity Net Gain. Often these will work together to help contribute to the net gain required.

For example, Eco-habitats provide a fuss-free and inexpensive option, which can be introduced as supplementary enhancements to provide durable and discreet habitats for British birds, bats, bees and other species.

What are Eco-habitats?

The premise is simple. Initially driven by architect demand for more discreet solutions, integrated wildlife boxes offer durable and discreet habitats for British birds, bats, bees and other species. Ready to be integrated into the fabric of a building as it is built or renovated, they are produced to UK standard brick and roof tile sizing for ease of installation.

Wienerberger’s range, in partnership with Habibat, is produced in the UK and can be faced in any brick type or stone, regardless of manufacturer, stone finish or suitable for render – and roofing Eco-habitats are also available. All solutions can be made bespoke to suit individual requirements for each individual project.

Bird boxes are tailored to individual species such as swifts, starlings and sparrows, providing space for nesting and roosting which is safe from predators. They are usually constructed using insulating concrete block which provides an internal roost space, with access holes to suit different species, before cladded with a brick face to match the building fabric.

Bat boxes are also solid boxes made of insulating concrete that provide an internal roost space and cladded appropriately. Suitable for most species commonly found in the UK, the single chambered unit features an integrated V system to increase the surface for bats to roost against, whilst allowing freedom of movement.

Other Eco-habitats include solitary bee bricks, produced to UK brick size format so they can be easily installed in place of a standard brick. These feature holes of varying sizes to provide resting space for different species of solitary bee. Solitary bees lay their eggs in these cavities before sealing the entrance with mud and chewed-up vegetation. The offspring then emerge in spring and the cycle repeats.

What else do you need to know?

Biodiversity is no longer a ‘nice to do’ in new developments. Recent changes in planning frameworks mean Biodiversity Net Gain is now a critical requirement in order to secure planning consent for new developments. Under the NPPF, developers are at risk of not securing planning consent if they do not integrate biodiversity improvements within their design.

There is currently no quantitative value assigned to Eco-habitats through Natural England Metric 3.0, but wider biodiversity benefits must also be considered, including the provision of Eco-habitats. That is why project teams are increasingly turning to these thoughtfully-designed solutions as proactive solutions, creating spaces for wildlife rather than displacing them.

Download Wienerberger’s specialist report, The Changing Shape of Biodiversity in the Built Environment – Exploring the role of Eco-habitats in the drive for Biodiversity Net Gain, for free today. Visit Click Here

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