The BIG Challenge Awards – Biodiversity Enhancements in the Built Environment

The BIG Challenge is a CIRIA Biodiversity Interest Group initiative launched to encourage the construction industry to make small biodiversity enhancements on existing or new build development sites. The BIG Challenge  hoped to demonstrate that small enhancements are the crucial first step in engaging with and understanding biodiversity. As more construction companies understand the importance of maintaining and enhancing biodiversity, it is hoped that it will become a much greater consideration in towns and cities.

It was great to go back to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew where The BIG Challenge Awards were held on 14th October. We met at the Princess of Wales Conservatory where we had previously laid a large section of wildflower turf framing the conservatory. It was good to check up on it’s progress 3 years later. The Awards were conceived to honour those that have made best biodiversity enhancements that go beyond normal business practice. There were seven different categories along with an overall winner who demonstrated outstanding contributions to biodiversity enhancements.

Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew(4)

Wildflower Turf were delighted to provide the prize to the overall winner. It is a cause that represents our core values as an organisation. We believe that the simplest and smallest initiatives will truly make a difference to increasing biodiversity in the UK.

Overall Winners of the BIG Challenge

The overall winner was the Pirbright Institute, a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. It has undertaken a large scale redevelopment project on it’s Pirbright Campus and committed to a long term plan to increase biodiversity on their 300 acre site. Enhancement projects include the creation of a reptile receptor site to which they have translocated 1024 reptiles, overhauled a 2 acre woodland area to provide a pond, bug hotels and bird houses, created stag beetle environments with decaying oak logs and created enclaves for beekeepers with beehives. There has also been a landscape management plan put in place, implementing a native plant species policy and a long term goal of creating a 5 acre wildflower meadow. Pirbright Institute are deserved winners and we look forward to visiting their site to take a closer look at these amazing initiatives. 

Our prize to the Pirbright Institute included a site visit and consultation with our Managing Director, James Hewetson Brown, training for four of their staff in the establishment and maintenance of wildflower areas as well as a large area of our ‘34 native species’ wildflower turf. There were a number of outstanding projects amongst the entrants and most noticeably a large number of case studies that included children and educational facilities. Construction companies have taken on the task of actually going into schools and talking about biodiversity whilst also helping to create sustainable and biodiverse areas within school grounds.

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Tony Juniper, a leading British environmentalist and sustainability adviser, presented the prize and also delivered a lively and meaningful keynote speech. His message was very clear on the value of landscaping and how we should not be drawn into cost cutting at the expense of biodiversity. Ultimately, if biodiversity is not planned in and accounted for at the initial stages of construction the costs to rectify the situation long term will be unbearable. He concluded “planners, designers, ecologists and engineers need to co-design to optimise rebuilding nature. These Awards are going to shine a light on excellence that’s already out there and once we begin to show what’s possible we will gain momentum.”

Category winners

Overall winner (sponsored by Wildflower Turf)
The Pirbright Institute – Pirbright campus, Surrey

Large scale temporary (Sponsored by Keepmoat)
Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, Olympia Community Garden

Small scale temporary
Willmott Dixon, Brentford lock Buffer Strip

Large scale permanent (Sponsored by Murphy)
The Pirbright Institute – Pirbright campus, Surrey

Small scale permanent
Morgan Sindall – Respite unit, Basingstoke, various enhancements

Most innovative (Sponsored by Morgan Sindall)
Aberystwyth University & others, Artificial Rockpools

Best community engagement (Sponsored by Skanska)
Kier, Port Talbot Parkway Railway Station

Pollinator
Vinci Facilities, FSN397 Welsh Government contract, Llandudno Junction & Aberystwyth

The Awards category shortlists are available at www.bigchallenge.info/

It was a fantastic event organised by CIRIA. Meeting the great and the good of the construction industry and other large corporate land owners. It has filled us with hope that there is plenty of enthusiasm and intent to continue with simple yet invaluable biodiversity enhancements on new and existing developments around the country. The BIG Challenge will continue next year . For more information visit www.bigchallenge.info

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