What is Building with Nature ?

Building with Nature is a design approach to develop Nature-based Solutions for water-related infrastructure such as flood defences, sustainable port development and for the restoration of ecosystems. It harnesses the forces of nature to benefit economy, society and the environment. Through the BwN approach we can develop sustainable infrastructure as well as contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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The guiding principle of Building with Nature is to work with nature, not against it. It uses system understanding and the inclusion of natural processes as core of its solution. Also, interaction with relevant stakeholders, including local communities, is key to successful implementation of Building with Nature. All solutions have in common that they are context-specific, multi-functional, innovative and dynamic, and are based on a landscape perspective.

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Get to know the potential of BwN on a landscape scale


Successful implementation of a Building with Nature solution can best be achieved through our five-step approach. The first step is always to understand the natural, social, and economic system.

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Designers use natural processes like currents and wind, and natural materials such as vegetation, sand, and mud. This introduces flexibility to the design, making Building with Nature solutions adaptable to changing conditions such as rising sea levels. There is no ‘one size fits all’, but EcoShape has developed a set of solutions that can be used, depending the landscape of interest and the natural processes involved. We call them concepts.

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Building with Nature and related Nature-based Solutions are not yet common practice. We would like to change that. One way to accelerate change is through implementing BwN projects and show how they work in practice.

Another way is to guide initiators of BwN projects with knowledge about implementation. Based on our twelve years of experience in pilot projects worldwide, EcoShape has identified six essential enablers that are crucial in the creation, implementation and upscaling of Nature-based Solutions.

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Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underline the urgency to act. The SDGs are the seventeen key topics defined by the United Nations to make the world a better place by 2030. The seven SDGs below Рclimate action, life below water, sustainable cities, and ending extreme poverty Рare linked to Building with Nature. They address the challenges in deltas where people’s livelihoods often depend on their immediate natural environment.

'Repairing ecosystems will solve at least 7 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals'
– Floris Groenendijk – Arcadis