Creating ecologically sound buildings by integrating ecology, architecture and computational design

Wolfgang W. Weisser, Michael Hensel, Shany Barath, Victoria Culshaw, Yasha J. Grobman, Thomas E. Hauck, Jens Joschinski, Ferdinand Ludwig, Anne Mimet, Katia Perini, Enrica Roccotiello, Michael Schloter, Assaf Shwartz, Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel, Verena Vogler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Research is revealing an increasing number of positive effects of nature for humans. At the same time, biodiversity in cities, where most humans live, is often low or in decline. Tangible solutions are needed to increase urban biodiversity. Architecture is a key discipline that has considerable influence on the built-up area of cities, thereby influencing urban biodiversity. In general, architects do not design for biodiversity. Conversely, urban conservation planning generally focuses on the limited space free of buildings and does not embrace architecture as an important discipline for the creation of urban green infrastructure. In this paper, we argue that the promotion of biodiversity needs to become a key driving force of architectural design. This requires a new multi-species design paradigm that considers both human and non-human needs. Such a design approach needs to maintain the standards of the architectural profession, including the aim to increase the well-being of humans in buildings. Yet, it also needs to add other stakeholders, organisms such as animals, plants and even microbiota. New buildings designed for humans and other inhabitants can then increase biodiversity in cities and also increase the benefits that humans can derive from close proximity to nature. We review the challenges that this new design approach poses for both architecture and ecology and show that multi-species-design goes beyond existing approaches in architecture and ecology. The new design approach needs to make ecological knowledge available to the architectural design process, enabling practitioners to find architectural solutions that can facilitate synergies from a multi-species perspective. We propose that a first step in creating such a multi-species habitat is the design of buildings with an ecolope, a multi criteria-designed building envelope that takes into account the needs of diverse organisms. Because there is no framework to design such an ecolope, we illustrate how multi-species design needs to draw on knowledge from ecology, as well as architecture, and design computation. We discuss how architectures designed via a multi-species approach can be an important step in establishing beneficial human–nature relationships in cities, and contribute to human well-being and biodiversity conservation. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-20
Number of pages17
JournalPeople and Nature
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • architectural design
  • biodiversity
  • building envelope
  • cohabitation
  • computational design
  • ecological restoration
  • multi-species design
  • urban ecosystems


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