Biodiversity: The New Challenge for Architects

March 30, 2021

Biodiversity is one of those fancy words people like to throw around a lot nowadays. It’s all over the place. If you ask five people about it, you’ll get five different definitions. For starters, ecologists use several explanations to clarify distinctions between species and ecosystems, or even further into detail to separate native from non-native species. Moreover, there is a distinction between definition and action when it comes to biodiversity.

Biodiversity loss is a massive global problem, and we can see its expression at every scale in life. But what is it all about, and how does it affect architects? 

What Is Biodiversity?

As a term, biodiversity comes from “biological diversity”, and it refers to the diversity of life on our planet. It includes all systems on Earth that sustain life, encompassing ecological, evolutionary, and cultural processes. 

Biodiversity includes every living thing on our planet, rather than only the creatures we consider rare or endangered. Humans are a part of biodiversity, but so are fungi, microbes, and many species we know very little or nothing about yet. It represents the variety of life in a specific ecosystem or habitat, and it comes in three basic categories: 

Genetic Diversity

Genetic diversity refers to the variety of individuals on a genetic level within specific species. No two individuals are the same, not even when they belong to the same species. Take us, humans, for example. Each of us shows vast diversity in comparison to another person. Also, people who live in different parts of the globe indicate a remarkable variation in many aspects of life. 

Species Diversity

Species diversity refers to observing many different species within a specific environment or community. The number of species between regions varies drastically depending on various factors, including environmental and climate conditions. For example, any groups of organisms that live by the water are usually much more affluent in species diversity than those living in areas away from the water. 

Ecological Diversity

Ecological diversity defines the distinction between ecosystems within a specific area. Different ecosystems have an outstanding variety in life forms they sustain. For example, you won’t find the same species in rainforests and desserts. 

Architecture and Biodiversity

Unfortunately, building development is one of the critical factors that drive the loss of biodiversity on our planet. Globally, architects pay insufficient attention to integrating essential life-sustaining policies into building strategies. Mass housing, rapid infrastructure development, and various social programs usually pay little to no attention to the principles of biodiversity. 

As the red alarm screams louder with each scientific study, organizations like the American Institute of Architects and the RIBA have started raising their voices to declare a global emergency. Architects and designers are now facing a challenge to put all essential biodiversity integrations into place. 

There are numerous ways to develop an urban environment in a way that promotes biodiversity integration. From green infrastructure to active participation and engagement of residents and communities, applying nature principles to buildings is possible and already happening worldwide.  Some architects have already started incorporating life sustainability in their practices, creating magnificent structures that seamlessly integrate with their surroundings. 

Biodiversity Approaches in Landscape Architecture 

Biodiversity in landscape architecture includes a planning system that sets in place and communicates all the habitat and biodiversity benefits of a specific landscape project execution. It contains guides for habitat restoration and preservation and various landscape enhancements that would benefit the area’s ecosystem. 

Native biodiversity is becoming increasingly crucial to leading sustainable communities. Traditional regulations and drivers focus on preserving sensitive ecosystems and endangered species, but the new approach requires a more comprehensive strategy. 

As landscape planners, architects often need to demonstrate how their project not only protects, but also improves the local ecosystem. The demonstration is particularly imperative in exurban areas. While they may not all be pristine nature locations or reserves, they still usually include rich ecosystems and are often the focus of various land and ecology conservation efforts.

Achieving a sustainable conservation vision is crucial in sensitive locations, and the issue is not exclusive to greenfield areas. Urban places are also becoming the focus of efforts toward improving biodiversity. These projects focus on providing and maintaining a connection to nature, climate change adaptation, and maximizing infrastructure upgrades. Using natural building elements and including biomimicry and biophilic design into their projects helps improve biodiversity in various locations. 

Many modern high-profile sustainable concepts embrace biodiversity principles. For example, we could see notable architectural developments with high sustainability during the Beijing and London Olympics in 2008 and 2012. The architects designed both concepts in very urban contexts, but with an outstanding integration of all crucial ecological and biodiversity processes. Maintaining a strong connection with nature while balancing living in a high-density community is the primary goal of projects based on sustaining biodiversity. 

 

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Shahbaz Ahmed

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