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Biodiversity and Home Construction

Biodiversity and Home Construction — What’s the Connection?

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Jun 15, 2018

The word “biodiversity” might bring to mind ocean reefs teeming with different colored tropical fish, African savannahs where giraffes and elephants meander amongst lions and gazelles, or jungles with thousands of species of plants, insects, and animals coexisting together. However, many experts believe that the key to defending our world´s incredible biodiversity is not only in protecting the last refuges of wilderness areas but rather in finding ways to adapt our livelihoods to better respect the other species with whom we share this world. 

A recent study by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that humanity makes up only 0.01% of all life, yet we have collectively destroyed 83% of wild mammals. Much of the damage to biodiversity results from our tendency to want to impose our structures upon the lands and ecosystems that sustain a wide variety of creatures. Changing this pattern will require us to reevaluate proper scale and contemplate the broader web of life we coexist with.   

The homes we live in obviously affect the biodiversity of the areas where they are built. While sustainable construction practices and green building certification programs typically address concerns related to energy efficiency, sustainably sourced materials, healthy indoor air quality, and renewable energy options, a newer field of study, as well as a certification program, has developed to consider how the home itself affects the habitat and ecosystems that are home to non-human species. 

What is Effinature? 

Effinature is a French organization that offers this very thing: a unique certification program that measures biodiversity protection in the real estate sector. In 2009, the certification process gathered ample information on criteria related to the building's environmental quality while also measuring how biodiversity is affected in the design and building process. 

The certification process was designed to overturn the tendency towards biodiversity deterioration that characterizes the housing and building industries. Recognizing that human beings can create our towns and living spaces to a scale that respects local biodiversity—for our health and survival—Effinature’s certification program is an attempt to highlight the importance of biodiversity for town and city planners.

Specifically, Effinature certification seeks to: 

  • Take measures to conserve the existing ecosystems of the landscape where building are to be built,
  • Establish and respect the biological value of a particular construction site and the potential of a given project to contribute to the ecological resiliency of the place where it is located, and 
  • Mitigate the potential negative impacts on biodiversity that result from all construction projects. 

Biodiversity's advantages for humanity 

Designing our homes and the physical places where we live to respect and encourage biodiversity protection is beneficial to our mental health. A home or building that receives Effinature certification will be a home that exists in a healthy, balanced environment. When the house exists as part of the natural landscape, it benefits from the variety of ecological services provided by the natural world.

For example, a home that understands the benefits of local wetlands and conscientiously implements a design to respect, acknowledge, and comply with the demands that those wetland ecosystems necessitate might incorporate a greywater recycling system that reduces the need for separate septic systems or municipal sewers. The result is a less expensive, more ecological way to utilize your greywater to benefit the environment where your home is a part. 

Taking into account biodiversity and its amenities makes it possible to create living environments conducive to harmonious personal development. Biophilic design allows humans to bring the natural world into their homes and connect their living space with the natural world. Not only does this allow for better indoor air quality, but it also creates several critical psychological benefits. 

Interview with the Director of Effinature

Cedric Plantaz, the director of Effinature, recently sat down with Rise to discuss the importance of biodiversity in the real estate sector and the Effinature certification system. 

Cedric, can you explain the work in which Effinature is involved?

Effinature is a certification reference system for the design, construction, and operation of a building or neighborhood to preserve and enhance biodiversity. We are involved with French regulations on the environment (Sustainable Building Plan) and the NF Habitat standard. All project designers and developers must adhere to the Effinature standard when applied to a specific building operation. 

How does the construction industry contribute to the destruction of biodiversity?

Urban planning, and therefore the construction industry, is the fourth largest factor in the destruction of biodiversity. The causes include the “artificialization” of the construction site, the fragmentation of the landscapes, the sound and light pollutions, and the human impressions on natural spaces.

You mention that every construction site has ecological potential. How can builders and owners determine the environmental potential of their construction site?

First, builders and owners need to conduct an initial valuation of the ecological potential of the site. This, in turn, leads to an appraisal of what can be appropriately improved and implemented on the proposed building site. This is called ecological potential. Each site has a different environmental potential. What we are aiming for is the maximum potential through environmental measures implemented by each given project.

How can homes and buildings be designed to unlock the ecological potential of a place through responsible and sustainable management of biodiversity?

Every house and every building can support biodiversity. This can be done by setting up a semi-intensive or intensive vegetated roof, planting climbing plants at the foot of the building where the façade will serve as development support, installing nesting boxes on the roof, or even implementing spaces for insects and beehives to flourish near the home. For responsible and sustainable management of the biodiversity of buildings, the inhabitants or users of the site must be aware and informed of the biodiversity measures to be followed. We must accept to let nature return to our cities, and for that, we must seek to develop a deeper understanding of how Nature works. 

How can an organization apply for Effinature certification?

Just go to the IRICE website, and under the “professionals” tab, click on "Get certification.” 

Anything else you would like to add? 

We do not inherit our parents' land; we borrow it from our children. Effinature is the first certification to promote biodiversity in buildings. Our end objective is to make biodiversity a citizen science that can be implemented everywhere. 

Final thoughts

Effinature certification encourages homeowners and builders to take a deeper look at the different levels, facets, and components of sustainability. While switching to LED light bulbs might be an essential first step, discovering the diverse and wide-ranging ways our homes affect and interact with their natural surroundings will help us find deeper sustainable design patterns to implement in the places where we live.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-10T04:57:04+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.