January 19, 2022

Nature-based Solutions should be the obvious choice

There is a growing demand for sustainable solutions to tackle the impacts of climate change. To reach the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfil the EU Taxonomy Regulation, NbS should be embraced as the preferred development paradigm, according to Alvaro Fonseca from Ramboll.

Implementing NbS in large-scale projects

What to keep in mind when doing NbS projects

According to Alvaro Fonseca, one of the most important things to keep in mind when doing NbS-projects is the ability to create a thought-out long-term vision for the project.

‘A couple of years back in the Reconect project, we did a visioning workshop in Nice, France. We facilitated a process in which four of the partners had to build up or entirely reconsider their NbS vision, and specify exactly what they wanted to obtain, why they wanted it, and how they were designing the system and the process to achieve it. Although it sounds simple, once you add the scale and complexity of the projects, it became evident to several of our partners that the NbS vision and definition of key elements needed a fresh perspective and a more defined direction. With short term goals, you complicate the process for yourself in the long run and risk losing out on a lot of great wins. It doesn’t help either when trying to obtain buy-in from the local community or even obtaining support from decision-makers that the vision is not clear, and the long-term goals have not been properly defined. Having a clear long-term vision and direction for your project increases your chances for financial support and a stable project process.

Another important thing is to be aware of governance and making sure to have worked through all layers of the institutional tissue. Who is the owner, who is paying, who are the different stakeholders and how do they influence each other? Is there a governance structure in place that can support the design and implementation of NbS? And do the project solutions fit the level of maturity of the area? You need a complete helicopter-view to make sure that your project can actually be finalised and implemented.

Lastly, when doing NbS-projects, you need to consider your wording and how you communicate the project. You need to do this always of course, but in my experience, it is even more important when dealing with NbS projects, as they affect how we use our physical spaces, like for instance landscapes and parking lots. It’s important that we as designers and engineers speak about NbS in a way that will eradicate any doubt that these solutions are infrastructure, and that they as infrastructure can provide us with much more than their obvious, important functions. NbS projects are not just lovely, green areas for recreational purposes. They are also infrastructure at the same level as any other kind of infrastructure. When you frame NbS as infrastructure from the very beginning, the questions you receive will be the same as with any other infrastructure-project – How big is it? What’s the price? – and you will spend less time having to convince people.’

Why NbS should be the obvious choice

‘First of all, city authorities and other stakeholders need to consider NbS because they work, and they fulfil a societal need. It’s infrastructure that can bring a wide range of co-benefits which enhances quality of life for people and harmonizes development with nature. Secondly, NbS are much cheaper, especially in up front investments. Lastly, NbS are what people want, even if they don’t phrase it like that. Globally, there is a huge wave towards holistic, green solutions, and city planners or river basin authorities will eventually ride that wave. NbS bring nature closer to our cities and make the cities more attractive, while solving critical problems. In short, NbS are multi-beneficial.’, Alvaro explains.

With NbS as the preferred development paradigm, cities will experience much more holistic and visionary solutions that will consider and accommodate their needs now as well as in the future.