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Parametrizing Biodiversity: How OMRT Blends Home with Habitat

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

I recently sat down with OMRT Lead Engineer Vincent Höfte to learn more about a project of ours. I had heard the concept of a green project in Amsterdam with an emphasis on biodiversity integrated in the design. With an “all-rounder” background in engineering, and a clear aptitude for innovation, Vincent was a great person to chat with on this topic.

Good afternoon Vincent. Today I’m looking forward to learning more about this green project in Amsterdam. I’ve seen some of their marketing materials and it looks like a great project we’re involved in. Awesome. I think before we begin, it’s important to first of all mention that this project and the idea of “parametrizing the biodiversity” is very much still in the exploration phase. The core of what OMRT does is around optimizing buildings, floorspace, energy, and general building physics. With that said, it turned out to be a super exciting project to be involved in, and a nice success story for OMRT.

Cool. So maybe it’s good to delve into some background info on this project first of all. I’m curious, what does this phrase we’re using “parametrize the biodiversity” mean? OMRT’s tech helped improve the environment of the site?

That’s more or less it. At a high level, biodiversity is the animals and plants on the site. So step one is to ask - what are the desired environments for the wildlife. Do the flora and fauna need hot weather or a cool spot, sunlight or shade, rain or dry spots, and so on...

The integral approach generates unique homes and habitats

So the end goal is to improve animal and plant life?

Absolutely. And this comes with additional benefits too.

Meaning the better biodiversity can improve general building performance?

Yes, while better environments for nature are an end in themselves, this approach leads to an overall better living situation. Humans are part of the biodiversity as well, and living in a more sustainable and integrated environment is much better. Cleaner air, nicer views, and so on. So the approach adds value to the project, both in a quality of life aspect, and in the financial or economic sense as well.

This leads nicely to my next question - how does the biodiversity fit into the overall project goals? Are these items typically approached separately, with biodiversity as an afterthought, or integrally? Well this project was a tender in Amsterdam. Amsterdam, in general, struggles with biodiversity. It’s a very dense city both in terms of buildings and population, which makes it challenging to provide sufficient habitats for biodiversity. For this reason, the city essentially is challenging developers to improve this. Hence we have this tender where the developer is trying to maximize the biodiversity. So in this case, it is central to the project goals, and not merely an afterthought.

So this project in particular approached the issue integrally?

There was a particular emphasis on the biodiversity coming from the municipality. Which is great as it empowers innovation from developers, and leads to a healthier, more liveable city.

Above: The line between home and greenery is increasingly blurred

Below, right: The 12 pillars of biodiversity defined for the project

Nice. One last question for you, maybe a little off-topic - it seems people have been talking about sustainability in the construction industry for a while now, justifiably of course. Have we already seen significant progress in the area? Or are the biggest changes yet to come?

Good question! I would say we are still in the stage of the early adapters. There are plenty of examples of implementing plants and greenery in the built environment. But “biodiversity integrated in building design” goes a little beyond this.

It’s more than just adding trees, it is about understanding habitats of flora and fauna, and acknowledging the challenges that come with implementing those. In that respect there’s a long way to go. It’s hard, and it’s new, so now is the time to have some courage to get where we need to be. These are the kind of projects where we can really try to set an example.

10 years ago, the standard may have been to place some bird houses around the site, and call it a day, but we’re really trying to go to the next level. This project, for instance, included a dedicated building ecologist, so big steps are being made, but mostly it’s a long way to go.

That’s a very insightful answer. Great to hear we’ve moved on, but it does sound like there’s plenty of room for innovation still in this area. Thanks for your time today!

Thanks for doing this! It’s been a pleasure.

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