Knowledge centre

Building with Nature

“Building with Nature” is a method, in which the starting point is to seek solutions that integrate environment and maritime infrastructure construction.

Eco-dynamic engineering

The Building with Nature approach means evaluating the natural situation as soon as possible when considering the development of maritime infrastructure. The dynamics of the natural system are the starting point. The aim is to pro-actively create an “eco-dynamic” design, integrating nature into the vision of the project from the very beginning. Doing this makes it possible to find solutions that achieve both socio-economic and environmental objectives.

Dredging & nature together

Rather than seeing dredging as separate from nature, or as a threat to natural habitats, Building with Nature provides a way to plan, design and operate infrastructure whilst creating new opportunities for nature and utilising natural forces whenever possible. Natural elements such as wind, currents, flora and fauna are utilised in designing a hydraulic engineering solution, thus creating additional benefits for nature, recreation and the economy.

Protecting coastal areas

Building with Nature acknowledges that tension often exists between urbanisation and the preservation of natural habitats. This can create difficult choices about how best to go forward, for instance, with coastal zone development. Coastal areas are attractive for industrial and residential development, yet they also contain valuable natural resources and provide habitats for a variety of marine and wildlife species. Building with Nature offers a way to alleviate this tension. Through its multi-faceted approach to problems like scarcity of space or accessibility, Building with Nature leads to integrated solutions. These solutions simultaneously improve socio-economic circumstances and preserve and protect environmental assets. The quality of life and the quality of environment are seen as interdependent.

Building with Nature pilot projects

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  • Sand Engine Sea Defence: Rather than traditional beach nourishment, a concentrated nourishment of 21.5 million m3 of sand was introduced, rising up to 5 metres above mean sea level. The sand is being gradually redistributed by natural processes along the shoreline, beach and dunes. Monitoring shows that this limits the disturbance of local ecosystems and also provides new areas for nature and recreation.
  • Hondsbossche and Pettemer Sea Defence: The project involves building a foreshore, a dune and sand nourishment. Monitoring data is being collected to enable evaluation of ‘soft’ solutions for coastal protection.
  • “Building with Nature Indonesia” aims to build stable coastlines with reduced risk of erosion and flooding by a unique integration of mangrove restoration, small scale hard-engineering structures and sustainable land use.

Climate change

Climate change, which results in rising sea levels and increased storm-surge frequency and intensity, presents a real threat to coastal and riverine communities. The Building with Nature approach provides an instrument for creating environmentally friendly ways to maintain safety against flooding and reduce or avoid more environmentally harmful interventions.

The Building with Nature process

Building with Nature operates within the triangle “science–technology–society”. These three are in a continual state of interaction:
  • Natural sciences are needed to understand how the ecosystem (physical and biological) functions and the social sciences are needed to understand how public decision-making functions and what drives its participants.
  • Technology is needed to realise things smoothly, efficiently and effectively.
  • Society is the platform for setting standards and for decision-making and is the ultimate stakeholder of all activities.
Early, integrated planning is key in Building with Nature. Lessons learned are collected in the “Building with Nature Design Guideline”.

Other related concepts

Parallel with Building with Nature, the “Working with Nature” concept under the auspices of PIANC, and Engineering with Nature under that of the US Army Corps of Engineers, have been developed. In 2007-08 EcoShape Institute was formed as a public-private innovation programme with “Building with Nature” at its basis. The initiative is rooted in teamwork and cooperation between the business sector and government authorities.