How Green Buildings Can Preserve Biodiversity of Wildlife and Natural Habitats
Preserving biodiversity protects the environment through climate regulation, waste disposal with the natural functioning of ecosystems to process and detoxify some wastes., air and water purification, and the generation of oxygen and air moisture. The anthropocentric value of the biodiversity of wildlife and natural ecosystems is indispensable and thus makes preserving and maintaining it a major priority for ensuring a sustainable future.
Nowadays, human construction drastically shapes the physical landscapes and with rapid urbanization and construction development within and around cities it is imperative to reduce the impact of buildings during all their life-cycle so as not destroy natural habitats both directly through site location or indirectly through various pollutions: air, soil, sound, and light pollution.
Orchestrate - Planning
When planning a project, the biodiversity of the natural environment and the surrounding areas must be taken into account to avoid endangering the native species, habitats and ecosystems that are present on the selected site. Analyzing the site and landscape beforehand allows architects and developers to plan their project taking into account the species on site and the opportunity to take into account critical species life-cycles such as reproductive seasons or hibernation, during which they should avoid constructing.
It is also desirable to not build too close to high value sites such as ponds,endangered species habitats or reproduction sites as this may cause unintended consequences that negatively affect the wellbeing of native plant and animal species.
Mitigate - Reduce Impact
It is important to limit the intensity, duration and the amount of pollution during the entire life-cycle of a building. This entails that during planning, construction and operations of a building the impact on the site and surrounding ecosystems is reduced as much as possible.
For example, concrete parking lots have less impact when they are built within the building footprint than when they are separate and take up additional space that would be natural vegetated land. When a building or infrastructure site sits between two existing ecosystems it is important to preserve the ecological connectivity by use of a bridge to restore connectivity and allow for free movement of animals and continued ecological processes. An example of this would be to incorporate the use of a pervious concrete that stores and treats rainwater and allows it to flow. This strategy also minimizes the land required for retention ponds and thus further supporting the sustainability of the project.
Compensate - Replenish Damaged Habitats
Recreating damaged ecosystems on a site by introducing at-risk species that have either been impacted or releasing animal species whose habitats have been destroyed is a way to support the preservation of the local biodiversity of wildlife and natural habitats.
The practice of planting native plants found on site, known as xeriscaping, improves the local biodiversity by recreating or maintaining existing habitats of local species. Native plants, that are suited to the climate, require almost no extra water than what is provided through the annual rainfall patterns; It is therefore much easier and cost efficient to sustain these landscapes in addition to them supporting the existing ecosystems and it also effectively restores the soil quality. It is important to take measures that avoid the introduction of invasive species that could threaten the viability for native species that would weaken the local ecosystem.
Where the built up area takes up a large area of the site, green roofs can be incorporated into the building and offer new habitats for plants and insects that may have lost their habitats due to increased construction in the area. Depending on project requirements and constraints, a green roof can be referenced in 3 categories:
Extensive green roof - lightweight and easy to install, it is suitable for large areas. Professionals recommend it for inaccessible roofs and flat or sloping roofs.
This category of green roof can be incorporated into buildings to support the reintroduction of native grasses and weed plants that support insect life.
Semi-intensive green roof - used within highly visible areas to improve aesthetic design. It requires moderate maintenance and occasional irrigation.
This category of green roof can be incorporated into buildings to support small native bushes which in turn support insect and small animal life.
Intensive green roof - needs stronger structure and more care as it needs regular irrigation and maintenance. It is comparable to an on the ground natural garden as it can be used for recreation, sport and farming.
This category of green roof can be incorporated into buildings to support native shrub and tree plants which can support insect, small animal and bird life.
There are various strategies that can be implemented in green building to preserve the biodiversity of wildlife and natural ecosystems. These can be incorporated at planning stage, construction stage and operational stages within the building lifecycle.
According to the USGBC buildings can earn up to 2 LEED points in the ‘Sustainable Sites’ category for ‘Protect and Restore Habitat’. The credit is intended “to conserve existing natural areas and restore damaged areas to provide habitat and promote biodiversity”. Additionally, project teams can earn points by ensuring part of their site’s footprint is undeveloped and boasts greenery or when green roofs are designed onto buildings.
To learn more about the LEED credits available for ‘Protect and Restore Habitat’ visit https://www.usgbc.org/credits/new-construction-core-and-shell-retail-new-construction-data-centers-new-construction-4