Design research Bio-based (re)building on the edge of urban areas | News report

News item | 14-07-2022 | 11:22

What do bio-based crops provide for the farmer and for the landscape? Bio-based building materials are necessary for a circular economy. But can bio-based crops also contribute to the landscape and can the farmer also make a living from it? Commissioned by the Board of Government Advisors and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and in collaboration with the Province of Utrecht, Nature Doublers and the BOOM Landscape offices have prepared this problem for the study area of ​​Groot Haarzuilens, on the northwestern edge of the area. city ​​of Utrecht. The results can be found in the design research Biobased (re)construction in Groot Haarzuilens.

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They investigated how bio-based crops can contribute to solving the stacked problem of the urban fringe. It is a search for new opportunities for the landscape, which not only supplies raw materials for bio-based building materials, but also connects town and country, strengthens scenic and recreational routes from town to countryside and contributes to climate challenges and improved biodiversity.

It is necessary that the yield from cultivation increases and that the farmer is rewarded for the social (ecosystem) services he provides.


The design provides concrete recommendations: “A transition to bio-based cultivation over a period of 30 years provides social, ecological and economic values ​​for a region. Different incentives (legal, political, etc.) are therefore needed to make the cultivation of bio-based materials a success.” Although the social value of the crops is usually high to very high, the economic returns for the farmers are usually still (much) too low to switch to bio-based cultivation and cultivation. In order to improve the business case, it is necessary, on the one hand, that the yield from cultivation increases, and on the other hand, that the farmer is rewarded for the social (ecosystem) services he provides.

Drawing and calculation

Using research by design, we gain insight into ‘what if’ questions. Designed research does not produce plans, but examines what is possible if the landscape is used for the cultivation of bio-based materials. In this research, ‘drawing and calculation’ are explicitly linked. BOOM Landskab has made the landscape analysis and outlines a recruitment perspective that shows different options and opportunities for a bio-based production landscape. The calculations were carried out by Natuurdoublers. They used a tool specially developed for this research that can calculate both the social and economic value of a crop. The tool also calculates the cost of doing nothing: what are the economic and social costs of unchanged land use? Calculations were made on the basis of the farmer’s earnings model (business case) and the social return (value case). Think of the benefits for landscape quality, CO2 reduction and prevention of salinization.

And now?

The specific recommendations from the study will be further explored and elaborated in the coming period. The Ministry of the Interior is working with that. Hanna Lára Palsdottir, program manager Biobased Building, City Deal Circular and Conceptual Building in the ministry says: “Minister De Jonge is very excited about this research and the opportunities that biobased crops offer in relation to the major challenges we are currently facing. Bio-based production is an important spearhead of the Beautiful Netherlands programme. We are committed to ensuring that the revenue models for bio-based crops can truly evolve. Think about the valorization of carbon storage in the crops. In the coming period, we will work with political support and draw attention to this with our colleagues from the National Program for Rural Districts. Together we will explore bio-based cultivation as a possible strategy and perspective for farmers. We will also develop this theme further within City Deal and Building Balance. We’re not done yet.”

For Engeli Kummeling, consultant for spatial design and sustainability in the province of Utrecht, it only starts in earnest. “I am very happy that this research is now available. My advice is that the results and recommendations be included as inspiration in area development and relevant provincial programs. The research can provide inspiration for programs that arise from the Environmental Vision and tasks related to nature, agriculture and nitrogen. Furthermore, it shows that we must solve the tasks in an integrated manner. The research also offers concrete building blocks for circular area development in the province of Utrecht. Deputy Huib van Essen (Act on Physical Development, Environment and Energy Transition and Climate) has been briefed on the result of the exploratory study and sees reason for follow-up. The province can stimulate circular opportunities such as bio-based cultivation and develop this together with regional and local partners. This enriches the income model of different farmers.”

Three case studies

This research is part of a wider trajectory of a total of three case studies in different provinces. In addition to this study area for the city edges, studies have also been carried out into possibilities for bio-based crops in a peat meadow area and an arable area on clay soil. These studies appear in late summer. Then the calculation tool will also be available as open source for use in other regions.

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