Costain: Improving data to improve biodiversity
With the right technology and data early on in projects, all infrastructure schemes can maximise their nature positive impact
What we know
The role of infrastructure
With an increase in UK government investment in infrastructure, now is the time to look carefully at how the sector can do more to minimise any negative impact on nature and move towards contributing to nature enhancement and recovery.
As part of their commitment to be a clean growth leader, outlined in their Climate Change Action Plan, Costain has been developing its Digital Biodiversity Management (DBM) capability in collaboration with the University of Reading. It provides a way to enhance biodiversity and enable greater programme delivery certainty.
What we’re doing
One of the things Costain is doing to enhance biodiversity on their projects is to harness powerful geographic information systems (GIS) technology for this comprehensive analysis and decision-making tool. It brings together data such as statutory conservation constraints, land-use and land-cover types.
Costain uses the data to identify the characteristics of, and risk to, each habitat if disrupted. This gives them a better understanding of the time and cost associated with offsetting the impact of any work. With this data at their fingertips, they can help their clients make decisions about how to plan in the most effective way to achieve biodiversity net gain. They can test different scenarios, for example, for planting, which will help them develop and evidence the success of restoration plans.
With live environmental data to hand in the delivery phase, different teams can plan and deliver works right first time, enhancing environmental and project performance.
What it’s worth
To demonstrate what can be achieved on major infrastructure projects, an assessment was made of the impact of the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.
It was delivered for National Highways by the Costain, Skanska and Balfour Beatty joint venture eight months ahead of schedule in May 2020.
Through this scheme, more than a square mile of new habitat was created for wildlife, including a mixture of woodland, grassland, wetland, and open water habitat. The team also planted 900,000 trees and shrubs, put up 360 bat boxes, 90 bird boxes, 24 swift boxes, 22 barn owl boxes, 24 kestrel boxes and created 24 wildlife tunnels to provide a safe place to cross the new road. Natural England’s Biodiversity Metric was used by the project to calculate that the scheme will result in a net increase in biodiversity units of 11.5%.
By 2030 Costain’s ambition is for all relevant contracts to use their digital natural capital, biodiversity management and location-enabled measurements to help achieve net positive biodiversity across the UK.