Publications

The role of biophilic agents in building a green resilient city; the case of Birmingham, UK

Novosadová, Linda; Knaap, Wim Van Der

Summary

The present research offers an exploration into the biophilic approach and the role of its agents in urban planning in questions of building a green, resilient urban environment. Biophilia, the innate need of humans to connect with nature, coined by Edgar O. Wilson in 1984, is a concept that has been used in urban governance through institutions, agents’ behaviours, activities and systems to make the environment nature-inclusive. Therefore, it leads to green, resilient environments and to making cities more sustainable. Due to an increasing population, space within and around cities keeps on being urbanised, replacing natural land cover with concrete surfaces. These changes to land use influence and stress the environment, its components, and consequently impact the overall resilience of the space. To understand the interactions and address the adverse impacts these changes might have, it is necessary to identify and define the environment’s components: the institutions, systems, and agents. This paper exemplifies the biophilic approach through a case study in the city of Birmingham, United Kingdom and its biophilic agents. Using the categorisation of agents, the data obtained through in-situ interviews with local professionals provided details on the agent fabric and their dynamics with the other two environments’ components within the climate resilience framework. The qualitative analysis demonstrates the ways biophilic agents act upon and interact within the environment in the realm of urban planning and influence building a climate-resilient city. Their activities range from small-scale community projects for improving their neighbourhood to public administration programs focusing on regenerating and regreening the city. From individuals advocating for and educating on biophilic approach, to private organisations challenging the business-as-usual regulations, it appeared that in Birmingham the biophilic approach has found its representatives in every agent category. Overall, the activities they perform in the environment define their role in building resilience. Nonetheless, the role of biophilic agents appears to be one of the major challengers to the urban design’s status quo and the business-as-usual of urban governance. Researching the environment, focused on agents and their behaviour and activities based on nature as inspiration in addressing climate change on a city level, is an opposite approach to searching and addressing the negative impacts of human activity on the environment. This focus can provide visibility of the local human activities that enhance resilience, while these are becoming a valuable input to city governance and planning, with the potential of scaling it up to other cities and on to regional, national, and global levels.