Journal of Biophilic Design podcast

Building with Nature

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Are you an agent for change? What is the barrier to designing better? Sometimes it is the apparent complexity of legislation governing ecology, planning and design that prevents people from discovering the best way of doing something. Fortunately, there is a simple award scheme that helps developers, builders, planners and designers navigate the myriad of paperwork and advisory bodies.

We speak with Dr Gemma Jerome, Director of Building with Nature, which helps define what good looks like in terms of green infrastructure (the way planners talk about nature). What I particularly love about Building with Nature is that it also helps give nature a seat around the table, especially at the beginning of the planning process and helps nature become a specification driver in planning and development. Building with Nature has an open-source Standards Framework, a one-stop-shop for all sectorial knowledge and expertise including Nature recovery, Sustainable water management through nature-based solutions, wellbeing, access and inclusivity to open and green spaces.

Gemma is also an environmental planner with a specialism in the design, delivery, and stewardship of green infrastructure. She is a Fellow of the Landscape Institute and co-chaired the British Standards Institute panel for the BS8683:2021 Process for designing and implementing Biodiversity Net Gain, and recently supported the RTPI/RSPB design code. In addition, Gemma has sat on various government roundtables and advisory panels offering expertise on design quality and is currently supporting the development of the Natural England Green Infrastructure Standards Framework.

We talk about how planners and designers can use the Building with Nature Award Scheme as an external verification to tell the story of what they’ve done, to share learning, and to reassure key stakeholders who want better outcomes for people and wildlife. For instance, if you need to reassure communities that the developer has thought about all these things, or the local authority needs external verification, or investors need assurance. The Award Scheme is measurable and so offers this metric-based assurance to help you demonstrate to stakeholders you are planning and designing with the goal of reaching net zero, supporting nature recovery, as well as supporting people’s health and wellbeing.

In an ideal world, before we build, we would watch a space for a year. This would be best practice to understand constraints. But we rarely do that with development, there is always a real rush to approve the master plan, to construct and implement. But then when it’s all done, most of the stakeholders leave, and other people (mainly the residents) have to develop a relationship with it and steward it over time. Gemma encourages us to focus on the front end, let’s start with nature rather than trying to consider it at the end of the process, where it can often cost more money to rectify should issues arise.

In the podcast we also look at retrofitting and how it can be done incredibly well. Gemma shares with us as a case study, the Queensland Court in Glasgow

There are many more more case studies on their website which showcase best practice and the successs of the Building with Nature Award scheme; visit “projects” and you can filter them by region

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Credits: with thanks to George Harvey Audio Production for the calming biophilic soundscape that backs all our podcasts.

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