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A large proportion of the world's population live and work near coasts, lakes and rivers. Hydraulic infrastructure makes that possible. However, infrastructure can also be a burden on the environment, and it is designed to be used for many years into the future.

Sustainability and Adaptability

Society and the environment are changing rapidly and so the design of hydraulic infrastructure must be sustainable and adaptable. This thinking is at the heart of Building with Nature (BwN), an innovative approach to hydraulic engineering.

The natural system as a starting point

Building with Nature begins with the natural system and uses natural processes and materials to meet society's need for infrastructure. It encourages the development of nature at the same time. The designer uses natural processes such as current and wind and natural materials such as plants, trees, sand and mud. As a result, the hydraulic engineering solution provides added value for nature and social functions. Often at a lower cost than with traditional solutions. Examples are the vegetation on a dike that inhibits wave forces. Or current that spreads sand along the coast, where it reinforces the coast and at the same time creates a recreational area.

Incorporating natural elements

By making nature part of the design, flexibility and adaptability to changing properties of the environment are created. Does the dike need reinforcement? Then we add extra sand or clay or we create the conditions in which a mangrove or willow forest can grow back in front of the dike.

Stakeholder involvement

Building with Nature projects are not possible without interdisciplinary cooperation and active involvement of stakeholders. The earlier stakeholders are involved, the greater the chance of a successful result. Involving stakeholders at a later time also offers opportunities: improvements are possible at every stage of the design process.

Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations adopted a new global agenda for sustainable development. It contains seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to make the world a better place in 2030. The goals are about ending extreme poverty, health, education and clean drinking water, and about sustainable energy, less inequality and tackling climate change. The Building with Nature solutions tested by EcoShape contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations:

Projects in place

Would you like to know more about how this works in practice?

Take a look at our pilot projects

How mangroves protect the coastline

This is an example of Building with Nature. Mangroves protect the coastline. Their roots keep the soil in place. More importantly, the trees stop the waves from attacking the shoreline and therefore reduce erosion.