Can property developers help to solve the biodiversity crisis? - Inteb

Can property developers help to solve the biodiversity crisis?


At this point, the biggest elephant in the room is that the planet was doing pretty well before we came along. Billions of years’ worth of evolution had turned Earth into a fine-tuned system capable of incredible things. When the dice of evolution finally landed on humans, there was an abundance of plants, animals, fungi and everything in between, some of which posed us significant problems. One by one, Homo sapiens dealt with these problem species (including one or two of our own brothers and sisters…) and began sculpting the planet to suit our needs.

Fast forward a few hundred thousand years, throw in one or two key discoveries, and the Industrial Revolution had arrived. This kickstarted the catastrophic climate change and species loss we are seeing today – CO2 concentrations have increased by 48% and almost 600 plant species alone have become extinct since then. After targeting specific species for millennia, humans had conquered the planet and become the perfect indiscriminate killing machines without even realising.

‘But why does this matter? Surely we won’t miss a few species!’ you may ask. Well, even the levels of biodiversity that we saw earlier in our lives are a thing of the past. Between 1970 and 2016, vertebrate populations declined by 68%. Freshwater populations declined by 84% – equivalent to 4% each year. And while these numbers are shocking in themselves, what they mean for us in the future is even more so.

These population changes have disrupted the complex and fragile web of interactions between species. Some species have displayed catastrophic collapse, while some have thrived thanks to a reduction in their predators – and both of these outcomes have disturbed the balance in equal measure. Species that we as humans depend on (for food, medicines and combating climate change, for example) are being driven to extinction, while species that cause us some of our most pressing problems (such as mosquitoes and other vectors for disease) have proliferated. Humans, full of naivety and with an endless desire for expansion, are to blame for this. Sceptical?

The present extinction rate is estimated to be 1,000 – 10,000x the background extinction rate, the rate of extinction that would occur without the presence of humans.

So what can we do?

Our urban expansion would be a good place to start. Between 1750 and 1850, the population of England almost tripled. The explosion in population during the Industrial Revolution coupled with increasing opportunity in urban centres led to a significant migration of people from rural to urban locations – between 1800 and 1850 the population of Liverpool rocketed from around 70,000 to 380,000. We have created vast concrete jungles in which to exist; the antithesis of the natural world. So why not reintroduce nature to the spaces we live and work in, and heal some of the damage we have caused?

The reintroduction of local flora to our cities could have myriad benefits. As well as providing new habitats for local fauna, plants convert CO2 to oxygen, trap airborne pollutants, and offer shade and noise buffering that make cities more pleasant places to live. Green spaces within a city can provide a boost to the mental health of its citizens, offering a place to relax and get away from the increasingly fast-paced city life. And, for property developers, the introduction of flora into building developments coupled with planning more sustainably can have monetary benefits too.

Green buildings have a greater asset value compared to their average counterparts; in 2013 green buildings in the UK typically sold at a price 15% higher than others. Operating costs are lowered thanks to reduced energy and water usage. In fact, the energy savings alone usually exceed the extra capital that is needed upfront to build in a sustainable manner. The increasingly environmentally conscious populace and the move towards net-zero also mean that all buildings will have to become sustainable in the future.

Planning with a green mindset can help to avoid costly retrofitting operations as regulations change. These are not the only positives – further benefits to developers, owners and tenants can be seen in the Venn diagram below.

So while we may be to blame for the loss of biodiversity that is threatening our planet and our way of life, we don’t have to continue down that path. If we reintroduce nature to our cities and buildings we can help fight species loss, climate change and improve mental health all while increasing the value of our buildings, reducing the costs of operating them and ensuring that they are places that people will want to live. Green buildings are the future – and they will help to ensure that we as species last to see that future.

Fancy a chat on how introducing biodiversity can add value to your development or your existing asset?

Let’s get the conversation started – call George now on 0151 601 3476 or email [email protected]