Earth Day creates an annual opportunity for people around the world to focus on an issue, and Earth Day 2019 is a call to protect the millions of species that inhabit this planet.
Saving millions of species can get overwhelming! So Paladino and Company is going to focus on one:
There are more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide. Some live in hives and others live in solitary nests or tunnels excavated from soil or wood. Some are big. Some are small. And all of them need our help. Bees are threatened by everything from habitat loss and pesticides to climate change and colony collapse disorder (CCD).
The good news is that there is a lot that can be done in cities and the built environment to help rebuild our bee populations.
And as a leader in the built environment, you (yes you!) have the power to do something to help bees! And it’s entirely possible that the cities where you develop are already incentivizing pollinator-friendly designs. For example, look to Minneapolis, which is a leading city that is tackling biodiversity through its pollinator resolution policy, which will increase the planting of pollinator-friendly plants and refrain from using harmful pesticides.
The connections between biophilia, wellness, and human performance are motivating real estate developers, architects, and owners to invest in urban green spaces with renewed interest. Researchers are finding that planting flower patches in urban spaces can help restore bee populations. Urban oases created with green walls, rooftop gardens, terraces, and verdant landscaping are good for people, and can be just as good for struggling bee populations.
As green space fades in the suburbs, urban gardens can flourish in the city – offering a waystation to bees and other pollinators. In fact, urban beekeeping has a higher survival rate, produce more honey, and are healthier than suburban bees!
So consider the flower patch, green roof, urban farm, vegetable patch, and living wall. These are all strategies to support bees and pollinators that can also be strategies to improve the pro forma of a real estate project.
While we emphasize native vegetation to clients because of the drought tolerance and maintenance advantages, the truth is that specialist bees need native plants too. There are species of bees that depend on native species of plants and flowers to survive. So your native vegetation could have a triple benefit:
- People like it
- Bees like it
- It’s easier and cheaper to maintain.
Landscape architects that emphasize native or near-native plant representation are doing important work to protect native bee species, while also producing beautiful places that people like to rent, purchase, and linger.
Exotic plants are expensive, and bees don’t like them!
What can you do in addition to green roofs and green walls?
- Provide ample bare, loose soil for ground nesters
- Ban or avoid pesticides that are harmful to bees
- Plant pollinator-friendly native landscaping
- Offer a bee keeping amenity like our friends at COOKFOX Architects to attract experience-loving millennials and/or create a mini-economy with local restaurants and grocery retailers
Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) was even recognized in 2018 for its extraordinary achievements in sustainability, including urban farms built into their projects.
And in Chicago Lurie Garden in Millennium Park has been called a model of responsible horticulture, with flowering perennials and grasses that sit atop a 4,000-vehicle underground parking garage and railroad depot. Lurie Garden attracts a diverse population of bees that can actually find the city to be a refuge of sorts.
And here’s what the Earth Day Network had to say:
The good news is that the rate of extinctions can still be slowed, and many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still recover if we work together now to build a united global movement of consumers, voters, educators, faith leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action.
All living things have an intrinsic value, and each plays a unique role in the complex web of life. We must work together to protect endangered and threatened species: bees, coral reefs, elephants, giraffes, insects, whales and more.
Share pictures of your bee-friendly projects in the comments, and Happy Earth Day!