Nature-inclusive housing project development: the incorporation of natural capital

This is an assignment for a student research (internship and/or thesis) as part of a science shop project. We are looking for enthusiastic students that have an interest in the spatial, legal, policy and practical issues concerning incorporation of natural capital in housing project developments.

In the coming ten years one million new houses are to be built in the Netherlands. This will be organized in numerous project development sites. Project development however is running at odds with the protection of nature, because of nitrogen emissions during the building phase. The Juridical Division in the independent Counsel of State ordered all construction work in the Netherlands to be stopped, to comply with the Nature Protection Law. While the need for newly built houses is growing rapidly, the production process is in the phase of an abrupt stop. These are the ingredients for a huge disaster that is now unfolding.

Given this controversy and in the light of several inspiring examples of building sites in which natural values have been incorporated in the plans, this science shop project is exploring the added value of a nature inclusive approach in project development for biodiversity management, the inhabitants and last but not least, for the project developer. The inclusion of natural values seems to be a logical way to the planning paradise and to a healthy paradise resembling living environment. Something like the WUR student residential area Droevendaal, but at a larger scale. 

Aim of the science shop project

The project aims to change the mainstream praxis of project development, to become more nature inclusive. In order to achieve this major impact, we have to prove that nature-inclusive project development delivers more value than one based on tabula rasa design.

Problems of understanding and three knowledge gaps

Project development appears to be complex; interest may differ from developer, government and present and future residents. Taking into account existing natural structures, such as trees, appears to be troublesome for project developers. For what we know now, this has to do with attaching GIS data to natural elements, but also to the way a municipal administration hands over a project development site to the development company. It has been told that a cart blanche or tabula rasa delivers more money to the public administration than one that contains instructions how to deal with natural elements (tabula scripta). On the other hand, it seems to boost the reputation of the project developer when he shows his ability to work with nature-based solutions. And, maybe even more important, he avoids many time and money consuming juridical conflicts about the way he compensates a loss of nature or mitigates the effects of his plans. One can easily see that it is a rich field of ambivalences for research, representing an important knowledge gap (the first).

Also, not all residents are happy with big blossom, shading leaves or fruits dropping trees. Lazy inhabitants prefer just stones in their garden instead of plants and flowers. Others, however, are feeding birds and hedge hocks. We have little knowledge of any effects of natural values in a newly built residential area on the behaviour of its residents. This is the second knowledge gap.

A third knowledge gap deals with the success parameters of best practices. These can be found among others in Culemborg (Eva-Lanxmeer), Zeist (Kerckebosch) and Oosterwold in Flevoland. What are the values that came into being, and to whom these values are accrued to?


1.Process description of incorporating landscape structures and natural values in project development. With attention for:

    • Inventory of stakeholders engaged in the incorporation of natural values
    • Knowledge management at the crossroads of ecology and project development
    • Actions and decision moments for the inclusion of natural elements to be described for the different phases in project development

2. Comparing citizens’ behaviour and gardens of nature-inclusive and tabula rasa based residential areas.

3. Analyses of 2 or 3 good practices1 of nature inclusive project development (tabula scripta2) with incorporation of existing landscape structures (such as trees). Analyses through interviewing residents, and project developer and giving a visual representation.

With attention to:

  • Design sketches by the project developer
  • Pros and cons for the residents
  • (Im)possibilities of incorporating natural values
    • Financial repercussions
    • Dealing with regulations
    • Cooperation government, resident and project developer

1 Possible examples are: Kerkebosch Zeist, EVA-Lanxmeer Culemborg, Oosterwold Flevoland