Most of us enjoy seeing birds, on our garden feeders, hopping across the lawn or just flitting between the branches of the trees. But are we aware that many species which once shared our buildings, even ones that were once very common, are declining as a result of current new build and regeneration practices? Here our editor, a former builder, introduces us to this feature which explores some of the problems and how we can help ensure our buildings are suitable for wildlife but still airtight and energy efficient. Includes contributions from for major wildlife protection groups.
This is a ten page article. First published in June 2009
Every builder will have come across it at some time or other - wildlife holding up their project. A nest of baby hedgehogs, a robin nesting in the dumper engine, a wagtail utilising the hole you left in the wall for the air extraction unit. Yes, spring is the crunch time to keep an eye open but wildlife is unpredictable. It not only follows the seasons but is opportunistic. Migratory and non-migratory species also need shelter. However, in our pursuit of low energy buildings, we are sealing our structures which reduces and even removes opportunities for wildlife.
The term ‘green’ building no longer seems to represent all that this word implies, particularly with the current emphasis mainly on low energy. For me, however, ‘green’ building still means what it did 20 years ago when I co-founded the AECB and this magazine - caring for the planet AND the species on it. Now I’m not advocating the idea that we should abandon the concept of airtight and energy efficient buildings, I’m just putting forward a case for all those that depend on ‘less engineered structures’ for a home. To usefully address this question I have had to sit down and think this conundrum through. It is clear that there are no easy answers:
for humans, we need to save energy, therefore we have to have less gaps in our structures
for wildlife, they need gaps (and ledges) for nesting/shelter areas.
Certainly on the building sites I used to manage, we had an abundance of wildlife sharing our sites with us - and not just on rural sites either. I have seen geese and hedgehogs on building sites in the centre of the city. The point I’m making here ...
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