Measuring the value of green infrastructure
CIRIA event highlights new tools for measuring biodiversity
Chaired by CIRIA network manager Benjamin Kidd, speakers included:
- Tim Hughes, Defra
- Tom Butterworth, Natural England
- Amelia Woodley, Thameslink Programme
- Julia Baker, Balfour Beatty Group
Awareness of the impact of green spaces in developments continues to grow. Launched in October 2011, the Green Infrastructure Partnership now numbers over 270 stakeholder organisations who help local decision makers adopt green infrastructure into their project planning, development and delivery.
Tom Butterworth of Natural England introduced the Local Economic Development and Environment (LEDE) project:
Jointly developed by Natural England, the Environment Agency, Defra and the Forestry Commission, the project aims to build the economy’s relationship with the environment into strategic economic plans, by taking environmental impacts into account when setting economic targets. LEDE has developed a workbook with a prioritised list of opportunities and threats for consideration in the strategic planning of green infrastructure. The workbook is currently being trialled by Worcestershire County Council. HTA’s Claudia Scholz noted that ‘it is encouraging to see the importance of natural assets and resources beginning to get serious consideration.’
Amelia Woodley from the Thameslink Programme offered a developer’s perspective, touching on the commercial benefits such as easier planning application wins. One of Thameslink’s flagship projects is Blackfriars Bridge which features a photovoltaic roof. Julia Baker from the Chris Britton Consultancy of Balfour Beatty Group has trialled a biodiveristy measurement tool for the Thameslink Programme. This tool enables calculations which provide an objective assessment of ecological resources on project sites. This can add commercial value by quantifying biodiversity and providing evidence on net losses or gains. Simplifying issues into comparable numbers is useful for planners and developers because it provides a robust basis for decision making. Defra’s biodiversity offsetting strategy is used as a baseline for calculations. Thameslink are building up a Strategic Alliance Partnership, a group of companies committed to trialling this approach. Offsetting will be provided by the Environment Bank.
CIRIA’s Louise Clarke presented another new scheme, Business Improvement Through Ecology [BITE] . BITE is a free web-based toolkit of practical resources for the enhancement of ecology using a range of business improvement techniques, such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). BITE will draw on information that is currently available and create a single source for this information.
HTA’s Scholz noted that both architects and landscape architects would benefit from awareness of these processes which will shape strategic planning. Whilst it is encouraging that ecology and biodiversity are gaining attention from both clients and industry professionals, there is a concern that these toolkits could become another checklist requirement at planning stages of projects, rather than being fully integrated in designs.
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