The Butterfly Effect by VenhoevenCS, DS and Solarix

The Butterfly Effect

As part of the Our Energy Our Landscape design challenge, a multidisciplinary team comprised of VenhoevenCS, DS landschapsarchitecten, and Studio Solarix developed a unique and innovative proposal that generates renewable energy while restoring natural connective routes for wildlife.

The design for an ultra-light web over the motorway was created for the challenge location in the Netherlands, but it can easily be applied to other sites to become an important part of the sustainability of infrastructure and transport projects globally. This proposal offers a helping hand to small-scale ecosystems and in so doing contributes to a large-scale approach to climate change and biodiversity loss, hence The Butterfly Effect.

“Thinking about generating sustainable energy within an existing landscape first requires a new mindset. We’re not only looking at capital in an economic sense but more broadly, in a way that values natural, human, infrastructural, and social capital.” says Cecilia Gross – VenhoevenCS architecture+urbanism

Insects as a starting point for design
VenhoevenCS, DS, and Studio Solarix have jointly used their expertise, drive and creativity to develop a design for a sustainable future. They believe that designs aimed at tackling climate change and biodiversity loss should be nature-inclusive. They chose insects as the starting point for the project as working on the smallest scale can create the biggest impact.

Insects create the biological foundation for all ecosystems and they are also an essential link in the food chain: 85% of our food is dependent on insect pollination. Building a treetop-level crossing for insects over the motorway can help to restore important natural connective routes. “Our company’s main focus used to be on sustainability, aesthetics, and circularity, but now we can add biodiversity to that list.” – Reinier Bosch – Studio Solarix

Double use of space above the motorway
The ‘web over the motorway’ offers a huge surface area on which to generate renewable energy. Thanks to its honeycomb structure, the lightweight crossing can be filled with materials that generate solar energy. The gossamer web is also modular, so it can grow and evolve in line with technical innovations. This double use of space above the motorway means that less of the landscape needs to be set aside for solar panels, which would negatively affect biodiversity.

Trees as noise buffers
The crossing ensures that nitrogen and particulates are released into the soil closer to the motorway. This enriches the soil along the motorway and allows trees to grow there. A zone of dense forest reduces noise in the nature reserve behind.

Aesthetic experience
Eye-catching shadow patterns and variations in colours and materials create a unique experience for motorists passing under the crossing. ‘This design offers an aesthetic experience that echoes the shapes of insect wings, spiders, and butterflies’ – Angèle Reinders – Professor of Design of Sustainable Energy Systems

Partners wanted for pilot project
Combining natural ecosystems with energy generation is a principle that can be applied globally: not only on the project site at the Strabrechtse Heide heath, but also near other nature reserves or along railway tracks. The expert panel who watched the online presentation of The Butterfly Effect were full of praise about the project. VenhoevenCS, DS landschapsarchitecten, and Studio Solarix are looking for a motivated partner to complete a first pilot project.

‘This web above the motorway offers a solution to the energy challenge and can be applied in many locations’ – Marco Bakermans – Planning Study Manager, Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat). The design for the Butterfly Effect will be exhibited alongside five other designs in front of the Natuurpoort de Plaetse visitor centre in Heeze until 1 July 2021. Source by VenhoevenCS, DS and Solarix.

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