“Feeling happier when you leave the area than when you arrived”

  21 October 2021  |    News

On 16 September, a second meeting was held on the nature-friendly development of Schiphol Trade Park. Ideas were gathered from various fields within the sector and will be used as input for the development plans. Ambitions are high, and many steps have already been taken, but a challenge still lies ahead. The goal itself is clear: Schiphol Trade Park is to set the standard for all other business parks in the Netherlands.

The meeting was attended by:

  • Blending Bricks
  • Buiting Advies
  • C-creators
  • Ebben
  • Fauna Haarlemmermeer
  • Municipality of Haarlemmermeer
  • Heem
  • IVN natuureducatie
  • Landschap Noord-Holland
  • Lodewijk Baljon Landscape Architects
  • Miscanthusgroep
  • NL Greenlabel
  • NMCX Centre for Sustainability
  • On the morro
  • Paul de Ruiter Architects
  • The Netherlands Enterprise Agency
  • Royal HaskoningDHV
  • Tauw
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Vogelbescherming Nederland
  • Wageningen University & Research

Reinoud Schaatsbergen of Acquire Publishing produced the following report.

Based on a detailed appraisal in the previous session, this meeting focused on what already exists in the Schiphol Trade Park area, what can be preserved and, above all, how smart connections can be made within and from outside the area. In three presentations, participants learnt about overall opportunities in the area, possibilities for greening a logistics building and possibilities for successful ecological integration.

Taking advantage of ecological quality

Schiphol Trade Park is a promising area mainly because of its size, landscape architect Lodewijk Baljon explained. “The plan deliberately maintains a great distance from the A4 – about 600 metres,” he said. “That doesn’t happen often.”

The project site also benefits from the proximity of various green areas, which may enhance the ecological quality of Schiphol Trade Park. “The relationship between the two is obvious, but still needs development,” Baljon said. These relationships become even clearer at sites such as Geniedijk and Rijnlanderweg, where the aim is to preserve polder quality without compromising safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Hedges can also be used to connect plots, Baljon believes, to preserve a feeling of everyday suburban life. “If you do this so that the hedges border other green spaces, you also create highways for the hedgehogs.”

Roel Rutgers of Paul de Ruiter Architects explained to the participants how by ‘greening’ this kind of site, in this case a logistics building, you can make a connection with neighbouring areas. The outside walls and ground floor facades therefore incorporate abundant planting on all sides – with variations to allow sufficient daylight to enter the building – thus making a connection with the landscape. Moreover, the distribution area is located at the rear of the building and therefore hidden from view. Social control is also ensured by locating the offices at the corners of the building, providing visibility both from inside and outside. Last but not least, Rutgers explained, “The facades will be covered with a variety of hedge-like plants. This robust and biodiverse vegetation will act as a ‘stepping stone’ for animals and insects to reach the green roofs.”

Ronald Buiting of Buiting Advies emphasised in his presentation the importance of including ecology early in the process, even before designs like the one above are produced: “This enables the types of breeding sites and biotopes that are to be developed to be identified and included in the design principles.” He concluded that the soil at Schiphol Trade Park is ideally suited to ash and elm woodland, as well as “a wonderful variety of shrub species and herbs”. By taking advantage of this, as well as the source population of nearby green areas, the project can benefit from existing ecological qualities. “As a whole, this leads to planning principles that can be incorporated into the design of the building and its surroundings, obviously in combination with a good management plan.”

Conclusions and tips

After the presentations, the participants were divided into subgroups, in which narrative techniques were used to explore crucial issues such as raising awareness of nature-inclusive construction among the people involved in an organisation. Some of the conclusions that emerged:

  • Include the “migration process” of existing fauna in the development plan. In polders it is typical for wildlife to migrate into and out of the area depending on what farmers are growing. To create connections, it is crucial to map this process.
  • Task businesses, residents or even children with the management of public spaces. This is an opportunity to promote learning about nature and to create public support.
  • Create a species passport so that company gardens also adhere to a certain combination of plants and trees.
  • Take the experience of different target groups into account. An employee who arrives and leaves in the dark will have a different experience of the area than will a resident. How can you use existing elements such as gradients and areas of water to create a dynamic cultural landscape for each target group?
  • Many users will not be aware of the effect of greenery. Therefore, do not take measures without due consideration, but assess the effect of a green solution and how you can improve it in the long term and promote awareness.
  • Take what the neighbours are doing into account. If they install a nesting box, what can you do to contribute to its effect?
  • “The big bosses want to hear a story that sounds good.” So, convey your objectives as a clear vision and mission, such as “The richest nature reserve in Haarlemmermeer, where you see green wherever you look.”
  • People who work in this area may still spend eight hours a day in the office. Find ways to influence their behaviour, for example by encouraging people to work outdoors, or by bringing the outdoors inside.
  • At many business parks, local residents and recreational visitors do not feel welcome. How can you persuade them to visit at weekends? How can SADC contribute to relations between neighbours, businesses and areas?
  • What has not yet been answered is how to ensure that Schiphol Trade Park is able to evolve over time, so that it does not become a static environment.
Next steps

The session on 16 September took the project team a step further, from exploration to solutions. The area developer, SADC, has sufficient input to start working on a development plan with nature in its core. Furthermore, thanks partly to input from the participants, a study into the soil conditions of the area is being planned. “What’s also great is that this isn’t a plan for ten years in the future, it’s for now,” says Rob de Wit of SADC. “This is a strength, because it means you already have to think about applications and management. We also want to innovate, and that involves experimentation. With the current mind-set, we can go a long way.” In addition, the planting season is about to begin, De Wit says. “This gives us a fixed deadline. So you can expect the next step to come in the next two months.”

Heard at the meeting
  • Develop the area in line with the needs of animals and people.
  • Use the existing nature as a basis and preserve the existing planting.
  • Communicate: tell the story behind everything that is there, to raise awareness among visitors, local residents and employees. The impact of the green message can be measured by the degree of acceptance by the owner, local residents and wildlife.
  • Create surprise by turning the surroundings into an experience.
  • Ensure that the ecological development is such on a scale that not only walkers but also motorists can enjoy it.
  • Produce a graduated design, leaving room for changes every few years, which as a matter of course will be green.
  • Management is often forgotten, so arrange this early (and sustainably).
  • Don’t create islands, but connect zones to create habitat for wildlife to live and reproduce.
  • People should feel happier when they leave the area than when they arrived.
  • Put the interests of nature on a par with the interests of business.
  • Companies that open offices here, or employees who come to work here, are also buying into a story.
“In other countries they’ve been doing this for years”

“How can the activity of a business park be connected to nature?” This was a question posed during the session by Robbert Snep of Wageningen University & Research. Green is still too often seen as decoration, yet there are actually countless opportunities to restore contact between people and nature in working environments. “What could be better than taking your children to work to enjoying the nature? We can achieve this by thinking not only in terms of nature, but also in terms of people’s needs. Create ownership of what you put here by managing the green space together, for example. By involving employees and local residents in this way, you cultivate ownership and awareness. “In Japan and the US, companies have been managing nature at their own sites together with their employees for decades, as a way of increasing employee involvement and boosting sustainability.”