Fostering Biodiversity in Urban Environments

ASPECT insights
Fostering Biodiversity in Urban Environments

ASPECT Studios celebrated the beginning of Biodiversity Month with the first of our TOPICAL event series in Brisbane – bringing together like minded people to engage with relevant issues that affect us and our environment.

Like many organisations working in the natural and built environment, we acknowledge the dire events happening here and around the world and the need for change. At ASPECT, we believe in the interconnectedness of all living things and create projects which enhance the lives of people and natural systems in an enduring way. We see our role as Landscape Architects to steward our stakeholders toward hope and highlight the positive contributions we are making to conserve and improve biodiversity, especially in our urban environments.

   

   

Our event brought together a diverse panel to discuss how different parts of the AEC industry are making active and positive contributions to this critical issue. The panel was moderated by Tamsin McLean from Activate Strategy Group with Deb Robbins - Studio Director at ASPECT Studios, Elizabeth Watson Brown - Brisbane architect and Adjunct Professor School of Architecture UQ and Emily Low - Associate Director Sustainability at WSP.

In keeping with what’s TOPICAL, Biodiversity is in the news as the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, joining the Australian Institute of Architects and Local Council’s in Noosa, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Darwin and Canberra. Our own city is conspicuously absent from this list, and we look to our city’s leaders to put aside political differences to take action on such a critical issue.

   

   

Biodiversity is important because we are seeing species and habitat loss accelerate around the globe with increasing challenges for the natural environment brought on by climate change, urbanisation and population growth. Cities impact on biodiversity from the global to the local. Evidence of this comes through our consumption of global products, the ever- expanding urban footprint into habitat areas and from within the city confines itself by reducing ecosystem complexity, capping soil and increasing run off. Whilst the current system of exploitation is in place for now, our panel explored the possibilities of reversing biodiversity decline from the inside out; from the macro to the micro.

The subtropical environs of South East Queensland are unique. We are one of the most biodiverse regions in Australia, and as Emily pointed out, our city has done well to protect our waterways corridors and hilltop areas, perhaps enough to claim Brisbane as a new ‘National Park City’ as London has recently done. This was a most welcome suggestion, as the panel discussed further the idea of setting Brisbane up for success as it executes its plans for growth. We agreed there is nothing more instructive than providing a series of incubator or exemplar projects to demonstrate what success looks like.

   

   

Informed clients, building owners and developers are beginning to look to improve the distinctiveness, sustainability and amenity of their projects and create better places in which to work, live and play. Libby and Deb used respective projects at 443 Queen Street for Cbus and 80 Ann Street for Mirvac to illustrate these benefits. Both projects are rising out of the ground and are expressions of our sub-tropical city and our Queensland identity, in a young vibrant city shaped by a landscape of gently rolling hills and a sinuous serpentine river. Biodiversity in these projects comes from precise actions, such as the amount and type of planting offered to the city, as well as indirect benefits such reducing energy, waste and the opportunity for education. They are involved in the challenge to create a diverse new city ecosystem and have done so within the project’s own ecosystem through collaboration and co-operation.

As the momentum for direct and significant action builds; our immediate contributions, however modest, must be accompanied by the powerful message that we are helping to preserve and improve biodiversity in our cities. We can also do this through creative collaborations with our clients, challenging the supply chain and folding in research and educational opportunities within our work. Our collective desire to enhance biodiversity and reverse its decline is achievable. Through collaboration amongst our diverse industry ecosystem we can create positive change within our city.

   

   

   

Photos courtesy of Inverse Imaging.