Wageningen University & Research (WUR) started the transition from conventional industrial estates to inspiring, sustainable workspaces in 2004, with green spaces and water forming the cornerstones for improving biodiversity, health, climate adaptation and appearance.
Current industrial estates were developed around the idea that businesses should be easily accessible and need space for buildings, parking spaces and storage. This development model has led to industrial estates that are neatly subdivided with good access roads and an eclectic, rapidly ageing collection of buildings, vehicle and goods. While this is quite effective in the short term from a spatial-economy perspective, it's downright poor from a human, sustainable perspective.
Based on scientific research, WUR has identified a number of social challenges faced by industrial estates. These challenges could be remedied by nature-based solutions that make the estates more sustainable, more liveable and more resilient. 'Nature-based' means something that is based on the added value that a green living environment brings to humans, plants and animals.
Researches joined forces with business and government leaders to explore opportunities to implement these nature-based solutions in industrial estates, keeping the following three social challenges in mind.
Recent insect research has once again shown that the loss of biodiversity is happening at a rapid pace, with presumably dramatic consequences for life on our planet. Research undertaken at Wageningen shows that managing corporate landscaping in an ecological way helps to preserve insects, birds, amphibians and other plant and animal species.
WUR has supported companies such as Heineken in implementing these findings into their landscaping management. The result is a thriving, biodiverse, inspiring industrial estate and great recognition of that contribution to maintaining biodiversity by other companies, civil-society organisations and governmental bodies. WUR is also involved in collaborations to scale up such initiatives in the Netherlands and beyond.
Numerous studies have shown that the rigid design of industrial estates makes them vulnerable to extremes such as heat stress. 'Green' design elements such as green roofs, green facades, rain gardens, street trees and infiltration systems can make great strides in offsetting that operational vulnerability. WUR has joined with its partners to develop a design tool to quickly, and in an evidence-based way, explore more than 60 of these blue-green development measures and decided which ones could make a real difference in which urban planning settings.
Health and productivity
Employees function better when their work environments inspire movement and rest. Today's industrial estates devoted very little attention to creating such environments. WUR has studied the effects of plants on office employees' productivity. Wageningen is also using international scientific insights for a design tool that aims to bring together design proposals for corporate landscaping that foster a healthier work environment.