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Our cities: Ecological deserts or biodiverse hotspots?

Preserving biodiversity is necessary for mitigating climate disruption and even preventing pandemics, UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently concluded. In a new report, Sweco shows how urban design can make our cities part of the solution.

The Sweco Urban Insight report, “Building in Biodiversity: For climate, for health” is part of a series of reports on the theme of Climate Action in which our experts highlight specific data, facts and science that are needed to plan and build safe and resilient future urban environments.

The WWF Living Planet Report 2020 states that since 1970 close to 70 percent of wild animals, birds and fish have vanished. According to the UN’s own Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) not one of its 20 objectives set in 2010 to limit the damage inflicted on the natural world by 2020, have been fully met. Despite the stark ecological outlook, this report from Sweco shows cities as possible beacons of hope and illustrates how we might use solutions to shift the outcome and bend the biodiversity curve. The solution lies with all of us, at every level of society. At Sweco, we work with developers and Local Planning Authorities to create cities of the future which promote biodiversity as well as wellbeing.

Historically, the lack of space and budget have been the two factors that have hindered high quality green infrastructure within urban development. This has resulted in the rapid decline in urban biodiversity and humans unable to experience the benefits that intact ecosystems provide.

In a post-COVID-19 world, it is more important than ever to create harmony between nature and biodiversity in our urban settings which will have short and long terms benefits for our wellbeing. Sweco believes that the introduction of health and wellbeing assessment tools such as WELL and Fitwel are part of the solution which complement other accreditations such as Building with Nature, Biodiversity Net Gain and BREEAM.

The WELL Building Standard and Fitwel emphasise the need to provide outdoor restorative spaces which include nature and natural elements. Fitwel goes one step further by including a feature, ‘Walking Trail’ which requires projects to provide an unpaved footpath with natural elements such as trees, vegetation and water bodies. The key is not only to adopt these tools but to target the right features that provide opportunities to increase green spaces, help biodiversity and provide people with a space which rejuvenates their minds and reduces stress and tension.

For more information on Urban Insight: www.swecourbaninsight.com