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Buildings for Biodiversity basics

What is Biodiversity, why bother designing buildings to increase it, can architecture make a difference? Is Australia really the place for it?

Recently we presented at the Brisbane City Council sustainability fair 'Green Heart Fair' and shared with residents the answers to these questions and more.

We thought we'd include a summary of our answers up here on our blog to tickle your tastebuds for your next architecture project....



  • Diversity of life (genetic, species & ecosystem)


  • An indicator of ecological health and resilience.

  • Without a wide range of plants, animals and microprganisms we can’t have healthy ecosystems on which we rely for food, air and shelter

Why care about biodiversity

  • Global extinction crisis.

  • Australia in extinction crisis.

  • 4th worst nation in the world for extinction of native wildlife. More mammals than any other country

Urban biodiversity

  • Australian cities are hotspots for biodiversity (on rivers, grasslands, etc)

  • 25% of Australia’s nationally listed threatened plants and 46% of threatened animals can be found in our urban areas (ACF report: the extinction crisis(ives et al)

Biodiversity Brisbane

  • Brisbane considered the most biodiverse capital city in Australia . SEQ one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.

  • Brisbane is the worst city for habitat destruction in Australia (2000 – 2017) (6000ha of threatened species habitat destroyed (ACF)

  • 64% of total threatened species habitat having been lost.

Top threats

  • Vegetation clearing, fragmentation of remaining vegetation, pest species, pollutants.


  • Understand the ecosystem: geology, soil, climate, microclimate – clues to the unique plants, animals and microorganisms of the ecosystem

Why architecture

Buildings reflect and shape our values and attitudes.

Change the building, change the hearts and minds of our community.

They are where we spend the majority of our time.

We need more than a daily dose of biodiversity experiences to improve our health and wellbeing.

They are a dominant component of our urban fabric and central to many of our economic decisions.

Change how we design & build to include biodiverse urban nature, potentially reverse trends of habitat and biodiversity loss.

Biodiversity & Architecture

The big ideas:

Increase & improve habitat

  • Vegetation is best (build less, build light)

  • Allocate building space to supplement the habitat requirements of the local plants and wildlife. Eg, nesting boxes (Quiet, undisturbed places)

Get to understand the current dynamics of the ecosystem & how to change it & what to

  • Who & what is there & why

  • What biodiversity could be there

  • How do we get there?

Understand & overcome the barriers to biodiversity

Buildings overcoming the big challenges

There’s a few good reasons some animals find it hard to survive around our home:

Building design can help overcome some of the biggest urban biodiversity barriers:

  • Our cats & dogs

Utilise roof, eave and overhang spaces and structural poles for nesting boxes and vegetation features to keep safe from cats & dogs

Build in cat enclosures

Fence off or use barriers for dog zones

  • Our plants

Utilise a green wall and green roof for both building insulation and provision of year-round nectar producing plants

  • Our lack of available water to drink

Integration of open water features into rain water & grey water filtration & storage: eg rain gardens & ponds.

The devil is in the detail: Design for the three S’s for both home owners & biodiversity

There’s a good reason we choose to make our homes and gardens as anti-wildlife as possible

  • Safety & sanity & sanitary

Sharing is caring! Water permeability of driveway surfaces, roof space allocated to vegetation. Find opportunities to share the sun, water, shade and food resources you and your home provides alongside ways it can benefit your home and family too.

Accept and celebrate a degree of separation! Raised walkways, quiet waterhole zones, fully sealed windows.

Consider viewing platforms & windows as a way to engage with nesting boxes. Nest boxes and watering holes are best to be kept undisturbed.

Design habitat in a way that is accessible to be cleaned and wont damage the building or pollute clean areas during cleaning. This is to limit the spread of disease for both wildlife and humans.

How to attract Biodiversity, not just ‘Vermin’

If you build it, someone will come. If you provide the right food and the right home….maybe someone else will come. The more biodiversity-friendly approaches in your building, garden and neighbourhood you take, the more likely biodiversity will increase.

Fall in love again with the wildlife you already have. They will teach us some of the important lessons we need to learn if we are going to improve the biodiversity in our backyard.

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