Our respect and understanding of the local environment is increasing with the recognition of its importance in our daily life. This is reflected in the Eco-Engineering Approach developed and used in dredging- and marine infrastructure projects. The approach starts with a thorough understanding of the local environment, and aims to increase overall value of the project both for nature, society and of course the project itself (economics and profitability). By focusing on synergies and development opportunities that strengthen both the environment and the project, construction and operational costs are reduced as well as lead times during permit process.

We believe that this approach offers similar benefits to selected Offshore projects. It is based on the lessons learned and knowledge development gathered in the past years through the Building with Nature innovation programme, and experience gained from projects in daily practice. This allows for a head start on offshore projects.

Eco-engineering starts from dedicated pre-project environmental monitoring to gain insight in the underlying physical and ecological processes. This provides the basis for project design and, later on, the construction and operation works. For nature, it is about recognizing key environmental values and the presence and resilience of sensitive receivers at an early stage. This enables optimization of project design and implementation of adaptive work methods with the objective to enhance habitat (soft and hard substrate), and to ensure minimal impact. For the physical environment, designs and work methods can be adapted to allow for beneficial use of natural forces such as sediment transport, currents and waves. Examples for offshore projects include landfalls in sensitive near shore/intertidal and wetland areas, landscaping of seabeds, scour protection and rock coverings to decrease volumes and increase ecological habitats and use of ecologically designed Gravity Based Structures acting as reefs.

Joint development and implementation of the approach, and creation of support within the project stakeholder community are some of the major lessons learned and success factors of the Building with Nature innovation programme. By bringing together a broad range of stakeholders at start of the programme consisting of research institutes, universities, NGO’s and local stakeholders, industry, consultants and governments, ensures mutual understanding and respect for each other’s goals and approaches. Instead of being restrictive towards each other with continuous scrutiny during every step in the process, the network interacts and develops innovative knowledge, thereby strengthening each other’s ideas.

Contractors played a key role in this development by initiating the Building with Nature programme, subsequently taking responsibility in contracts and developing and implementing the Eco-Engineering approach in daily practice. This approach contributes importantly to a sustainable future for both the sector/industry as well as the environment in which they operate.

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