A systematic design approach for objectifying Building with Nature solutions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Hydraulic engineering infrastructure is supposed to keep functioning for many years and is likely to interfere with both the natural and the social environment at various scales. Due to its long life-cycle, hydraulic infrastructure is bound to face changing environmental conditions as well as changes in societal views on acceptable solutions. This implies that sustainability and adaptability are/ should be important attributes of the design, the development and operation of hydraulic engineering infrastructure. Sustainability and adaptability are central to the Building with Nature (BwN) approach. Although nature-based design philosophies, such as BwN, have found broad support, a key issue that inhibits a wider mainstream implementation is the lack of a method to objectify BwN concepts. With objectifying, we mean turning the implicit into an explicit engineerable ‘object’, on the one hand, and specifying clear design ‘objectives’, on the other. This paper proposes the “Frame of Reference” approach as a method to systematically transform BwN concepts into functionally specified engineering designs. It aids the rationalisation of BwN concepts and facilitates the transfer of crucial information between project development phases, which benefits the uptake, acceptance and eventually the successful realisation of BwN solutions. It includes an iterative approach that is well suited for assessing status changes of naturally dynamic living building blocks of BwN solutions. The applicability of the approach is shown for a case that has been realised in the Netherlands. Although the example is Dutch, the method, as such, is generically applicable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-49
Number of pages21
JournalResearch in Urbanism Series
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Building with Nature
  • Design
  • Ecosystem services
  • Frame of reference
  • Objectification
  • Solutions


Dive into the research topics of 'A systematic design approach for objectifying Building with Nature solutions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this