Building with Nature as integrated design of infrastructures





Building with Nature, Sand Motor, life cycle approach, adaptive design, infrastructures


Many people associate Building with Nature with its flagship project, the Sand Motor. This mega-nourishment redefined the role of natural processes in civil engineering projects, demonstrating that instead of ‘do no harm’ as the highest possible supporting goal of coastal infrastructure, the design could incorporate natural processes to attain societal and ecological goals. As such, the Sand Motor represents a key example of the integrated design of civil infrastructures. In this contribution, we pursue an improved understanding of the integrated design of civil infrastructures, by comparing the illustrative example of the Sand Motor against a framework based on transport infrastructures and the occasional flood defence. It turns out that application of a framework from one domain to another - a conscious act of interdisciplinary learning - results in a modification of that framework. Although the domain of Building with Nature fits well with many existing attributes of integrated design for civil infrastructures (the life cycle approach, adaptive design and adding functionalities), its key attribute (dynamics) adds a unique box to the integrality index. This intellectual effort raises two issues. It demonstrates that our understanding of integrated design is rather specific for different infrastructure-domains. Second, it is likely that the bandwidth of uncertainty that is key to the incorporation of natural processes in infrastructure design, and the changing behaviour of the structure itself in the maintenance phase, has implications for the governance regime of such infrastructures.

How to Cite

Brand, N., & Hertogh, M. (2021). Building with Nature as integrated design of infrastructures. Research in Urbanism Series, 7, 15–28.



Author Biographies

Nikki Brand, Delft University of Technology

Nikki Brand is an interdisciplinary scientist and policy advisor at TU Delft. Flood resilient urban development and interdisciplinary learning are central in her research. Nikki’s work is motivated by the Houston-Galveston Bay region in Texas, where she first observed how fragmented knowledge prevents an effective response to flood risk. Her mission is to accelerate learning by merging knowledge.

Marcel Hertogh, Delft University of Technology

Professor Marcel Hertogh is head of the research group Infrastructure Design and Management at the faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at the TU Delft. The group focusses on project management of mega projects, engineering asset management and building information modelling. He is strategic advisor for Rijkswaterstaat and chairman of DIMI: the interfaculty Delft research Initiative facilitating research and education on Mobility and Infrastructures.


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