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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity
Life below Water
Life on Land
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Vergroot de veerkracht van steden
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Developing resilient infrastructure
Responsible Consumption and Production
(Re)use of natural materials
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.