Nature today | Together, the inclusive nature of building a green future

Building-dwelling bats and urban birds have depended on humans for their habitat for hundreds of years. Due to the method of construction, the buildings were automatically suitable for these animals, since there were gaps and voids under the roof tiles. In recent decades, these types of places have fallen sharply due to a different and more stringent method of construction and renovation. It is no longer a given that these animals can live in our buildings. By establishing additional nesting and lodging places in the municipalities of Tilburg, Helmond, Eindhoven, Breda and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, species such as the common pipistrelle, house sparrow and cyvete have been given a helping hand. Together they have built 1,400 nesting stones for birds and built-in boxes for bats, and more than 500 more are planned.

At the symposium, project developers, architects, housing companies, municipalities and environmental scientists spoke about their experiences and plans for a more inclusive living environment with nature. Architect Marcel Steeghs of SVP discusses the fact that – even without built-in bat boxes – you can turn empty spaces in buildings with few resources and almost minimal investment into gorgeous houses for bats. “From my earlier doubts about it, this really got me excited. If it’s easy to do great things for those animals with few resources, you should do it a lot.”

The holistic construction of nature is almost self-evident

In recent years, the holistic construction of nature has taken off. “At the beginning of the project, this was still in its infancy,” says Stefan Vreugdenhil of Vogelbescherming. “But the concept of the holistic nature of the buildings has now been adopted. Not only in Brabant, but all over the country.” Tilburg city ecologist Micha Cillessen also agrees. “The beautiful transformation that I have seen is that we have gone from commitment under the Nature Protection Act to being proactive. Now project developers and architects come to us with a question about what they can contribute in the context of the overall building of nature. I think that is a huge difference in those five or six years. It becomes Easier, and that’s great.” Rombot van Eckelen, an urban ecologist in Breda, stresses that the legal basis for this was important. “The comprehensive nature building project also helped realize that the application also has intrinsic value, as a habitat for the many species that inhabit the city. Since then the installation of nesting and accommodation spaces has proliferated like an oil slick.”

More than just building a nest or bat box

But nature’s holistic construction goes far beyond simply creating additional living space for birds and bats. By designing the living and working environment in an environmentally inclusive manner, it is possible to create healthy and attractive cities and villages. Good urban green spaces provide cooling in the summer heat, purify the air and provide plenty of space for the city’s natural inhabitants – such as birds and bats – who in turn keep the insects in balance. In this context, some inspiring examples were presented during the seminar. Architect Berend Hoffmann of the Office of Joint Affairs explained what the listed house of the future would look like: “Based on bio-based, i.e. made of natural materials, collective sewage treatment, collective rainwater storage tank, collective heat pump. Materials much less toxic to residents, They breathe better, are lighter and are cheaper. You can make a bio-based home completely energy neutral and do something for nature. The knowledge is there, so why not do it?” IVN’s Wander van der Kolk adds: “You have to start by offering space For nature. An all-nature home must be resilient to climate change. It is also important to design from a people’s perspective. You create a social living environment. Nature is the perfect tool for that.”

Speakers at The Holistic Nature of Building Symposium.  From left to right.  Above: Stefan Vreugdenhil (Bird Protection), Mischa Cillessen (Tilburg), Vita Hommersen (Mammal Society).  Middle: Noor Aguina (synchronous), Ronald Buiting (Buiting's tip), Guter van Kaan (KAN Creations).  Below: Berend Hofman (Common Affairs) and Wander van der Kolk (IVN), Marcel Steeghs (SVP), Frank van Pamelen (President of the Day)

Project developer Noor Agina of Synchroon also explains how nature is increasingly being taken as a starting point for projects within Synchroon. “Previously, we only started thinking about stone nests and bat boxes when we were developing homes. But now we first look at the type of soil, whether there is water nearby, what kind of animals live in the area and how we can contribute to that. We include the environment since Beginning and designing not only buildings, but also green spaces in streets and parks and integrating into the existing nature. Food, variety, and safety, go far beyond just a place to stay.”

Nature and humans as biodiversity target species

And what is your dream for the future? Marcel Schilmans of the Mammal Society asked urban ecologists in B5 cities this question. “Take nature as a starting point, not build a house,” says Wouter van Vejveken of Helmond municipality. “This nature is included as a full discussion partner in the developments,” adds Elaine van Rosmalen of Eindhoven Municipality. Misha Cillessen hopes that nature conservation can go too far because we take everything into account. “We as human beings provide life.” And Kees Konings from ‘s-Hertogenbosch can imagine how city dwellers find inspiration in nature. “That people relate to nature, draw strength from it. Nature is a beautiful picture to meditate on. And this nature next door is very important for that.” Rombout van Eekelen: “Nature and humans as biodiversity target species. The holistic construction of nature is not only important for much of nature, but also for an enjoyable and healthy living environment for people.”

Urban ecologists from Brabant's five largest cities in conversation with Marcel Schliemanns of the Mammal Society about their all-encompassing dream of nature for the future

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Text: Vita Homersen, Mammal Society
Photos: Myriam Vershor (TOP PHOTO: Urban ecologist Micha Cillessen on the road with symposium participants)
Figures: Birds Protection Association / Mammals

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