The Integrated Habitats Design Competition.
Urban sprawl has had an enormous impact on biodiversity as cities have grown in the world’s most fertile places, often on the flood-planes of the greatest rivers, once rich in native habitats they are now the urban jungles of humanity. So it is a surprise to many that cities can be surprisingly bio-diverse, with a vast range of niches which are taken over by a riotous combination of native, escaped alien, bred, hybridized and managed species. Indeed compared with land converted from nature for agricultural use, often intensively managed with high inputs of fertilizer and dosed with herbicides and pesticides to become mono-cultural deserts, cities are a very attractive place for species to find shelter and food.
More significantly the role of biodiversity for human and environmental resilience in cites is increasing becoming clear. Green, diverse spaces are important for the mental well-bring and health of people of all ages, and significant as accessible natural spaces for healthy well developed and confident children to grow. Meanwhile green spaces; parks, gardens, footpaths and green roofs contribute multiple benefits to urban environmental security; helping filter the air and absorb particles and carbon dioxide, taking up rainfall to reduce both the risks of drought and flood and lowering city temperatures by natural transpiration to mitigate the urban heat island effect. In fact the list is enormously long with the health, environmental and economic benefits increasing clear.
Of course the most important time to consider and include green, bio-diverse infrastructure is when new developments are being planned by urban planners, designers and architects and this is why the Integrated Habitats Design Competition (IHDC) is so exciting. First run in 2010 in London, it is the inspiration for three remarkable people, architect Blanche Cameron, Green-roof expert Dusty Gedge and urban ecologist Gary Grant. Together they have developed an annual competition, conference, exhibition and award ceremony that celebrate the best achievements of design professionals who create excellent spaces incorporating bio-diverse solutions for people and the natural world. Year on year it is getting bigger as more people are paying attention. Building and urban design professionals see their peers being applauded for giving attention to how the natural world and people can mutually benefit from inspired green solutions. The competition is a great idea and could easily be replicated in cities around the globe.