Building with Nature

Partnership agreement Building with Nature signed

07 February 2017 - Published by Eric Boessenkool
Prevention from flooding using nature instead of constraining nature. That’s what Building with Nature (BwN) is about. Late last year 15 parties signed a partnership agreement, enabling the Interreg NSR Building with Nature project to really get started. Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands is the lead partner, with Egon Baldal as project manager. We ask him four questions.

What is Building with Nature?
‘We are working with partners from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland to design flood defences in a natural way. When we build dams and dikes, we are actually working against nature. You can reinforce a solid dam with concrete and stones, but you can also pack the whole thing in a layer of sand that is kept in place by plants. In this way, the dam remains robust through a natural process of dune formation, which will often make it even stronger. In BwN we are gathering and monitoring the effects of 13 natural interventions. They will form the basis for future applications.’

Can you give us some examples of these natural interventions?
‘A good example is the Sand Engine, an artificial peninsula off the coast near The Hague, where nature will create a secure coastline over the next 20 years. The coast is growing naturally, protecting us from rising sea levels. In a project being run by our Scottish partners, trees have been placed over a river to act as a weir in periods of heavy rainfall. The water is held back for longer and the river does not have to handle the entire volume of water at once. When a tree rots through, the weir can be quickly replaced simply because five trees have been planted next to it, to easily provide a replacement This is a completely different interpretation of Building with Nature.’

Why is the partnership agreement so important?
‘Rijkswaterstaat is the lead project manager and is therefore responsible for the whole project and the EU subsidy of €3.4 million. To make effective use of this subsidy, there had to be a partnership agreement in order to ensure joint accountability for progress in the project and for finances. Otherwise some of the partners would not have been allowed to start work. This agreement therefore provides security for the partners, but also for Rijkswaterstaat as the main party responsible.’

How do you envisage the future of BwN?
‘Rosy! At the moment BwN is still highly project-specific, but if it gains wider acceptance it can be upscaled. That will make it cheaper and improve its reliability even further. I expect that in 20 years’ time we will consider the BwN solution first and then revert to traditional methods if there is no other option.’


Photo credits: Tweed Forum