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Nine resources to help architects understand and implement Biodiversity Net Gain

Learn more about policy updates, metrics training, and what Biodiversity Net Gain means for architects.

30 May 2024

It is estimated that 60% of the UK’s biodiversity has been lost over the past five decades thanks to contributing factors like changes in land use, pollution and climate change.

Subsequently, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) legislation was introduced and heralded as an opportunity for developers and others in the built environment to turn the tide.

This legislation required a plan for a 10% uplift in the biodiversity value of a development site as a condition of planning, and came into force in November 2023 in England for larger sites. It was extended to small sites – residential sites of nine units or fewer or smaller than 0.5ha and commercial developments of less than 1,000sqm – in April 2024.

RIBA Members can now access a library of CPD resources, recognising the technical aspects of BNG range across ecology and landscaping, the mandatory use of formal metrics for planning applications, preparation of long-term BNG site management plans, and the trading of offsite biodiversity credits.

Biodiversity legislation requires a plan for a 10% uplift in the biodiversity value of a development site as a condition of planning. (Photo: iStock Photo)

1. Biodiversity Net Gain Policy Update

Nick White, a principal adviser on BNG at Natural England, reviews the most recent policy updates and the latest guidance available for developers, consultants, and local planning authorities in this Core CPD module. The module also includes a case study-based presentation from Roddy Langmuir of Cullinan Studio on ‘Finding Opportunities for Biodiversity in Practice’, which reveals how his practice has been incorporating biodiversity, ecology, and landscape into their work.

2. What do architects need to know about biodiversity net gain legislation?

In this RIBA Journal professional feature, Ben Stansfield, Partner and environmental law specialist at Gowling, also looks at regulations and planning guidance. This includes confirmation of the biodiversity hierarchy that architects will need to apply to existing biodiversity on site, planning guidance on how the BNG process will work alongside planning procedures, confirmation that developers must be able to demonstrate that BNG is not feasible before purchasing offsite BNG credits, and a £5,000 fine for submitting incorrect BNG data to planners.

3. Statutory Biodiversity Metric Training

This on demand CPD module is presented by Michael Brightman, Learning and Development Adviser at Natural England, and is aimed at reviewers – such as project architects – rather than trained ecologists.

The module will give architects an understanding of the principles behind the main metric, how the scores and multipliers work within the metric, how to understand outputs of the metric, and how to check that it is complete and valid.

4. Biodiversity Net Gain – Small Sites and Small Site Metric Training

Coming up on 5 July 2024, Michael will also be presenting a free (to RIBA Members) CPD module in which architects will learn how to complete the SSM and a Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan (HMMP) for small sites.

Attendees will also learn what is required for an architect to be deemed competent to complete the SSM and will be introduced to the emerging market for biodiversity units and the process for buying off-site units when BNG cannot be delivered on-site.

5. Biodiversity Net Gain: how architects can best use the statutory metric calculation tools for small sites

Using the SSM is the subject of the RIBA Journal professional feature, which covers some of the practicalities involved in using the SSM; such as the need to record individual trees and collect photographic evidence of your habitat assessment to satisfy planners. It also covers the provisos that apply to SSM. They cannot be used where there are high value habitats on site or neighbouring, for instance, or where there is a water course.

Retention of existing trees and hedges can form an important element of biodiversity preservation and enhancement. (Photo: iStock Photo)

6. How to convince clients to plant and retain more trees

Retention of existing trees and hedges, and associated soil resources, is an effective strategy for biodiversity preservation and enhancement. This element of BNG is dealt with in more depth in this RIBA Journal professional feature. It also makes the wider case for trees, such as their incorporation into Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).

7. What biodiversity net gain will mean for architects

This RIBA Journal professional feature discusses how practitioners have been approaching BNG: when and how they carry out assessments, how they approach mitigation and compensation, and tactics for achieving 10% gain that might include ‘stacking’ BNGs with other projects or linking with suitable alternative natural greenspaces (SANGs).

8. Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain is imminent: Are you ready?

Members can still access the extremely popular RIBA Journal webinar, which gathers together a panel of lawyers, ecologists, developers, and planners as the introduction of BNG legislation approached to discuss how they had made their preparations. This included the practices being put into place by architects PRP and WilkinsonEyre.

9. Horizons 2034: Biodiversity

Exclusive to RIBA Members, and part of The Environmental Challenge-themed Horizons 2034 series, this article takes a closer look at how the protection of life on Earth is crucial for mitigating the impact of global warming on ecosystems.

Text by Neal Morris, and edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas.

RIBA Core curriculum topic: Sustainable architecture.

As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, professional features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD core curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as a RIBA Chartered Member.

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