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Home BwN Approach Building solutions Projects Toolbox

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System Analysis

System Analysis tools are aimed to assist the process of identifying key components, interactions and stakeholders in the system at hand. A system analysis tool may deal with the entire system, including ecological and socio-economic, or only focus on one of these sub-systems for a more detailed analysis.


Quick model set-up using open databases (DelftDashboard)

Although all surface water modelling efforts tend to be unique, a large number of steps (i.e. data collection, grid set-up, generating forcing, boundary and initial conditions) are the same in every modelling exercise. The main purpose of Delft Dashboard is to make it easier for modellers to go through these steps and enable quick model set-up anywhere in the world. It does so by linking to open databases for bathymetry (e.g. GEBCO, Vaklodingen, SRTM), shorelines and tidal data (e.g. TOPEX Poseidon). Users are enabled to add their own (classified) datasets to the tool. Delft Dashboard offers a large number of generic routines and handy toolboxes, such as coordinate conversion, bathymetric interpolation, nesting, domain decomposition and modelling of tsunamis and tropical cyclones. With these tools, setting up a model is a matter of minutes, whereas it used to take days or weeks before.

Framework for system understanding (DPSIR)

The DPSIR (Driving Forces-Pressures-State-Impacts-Responses) describes the assumed chain of causal links between Driving forces (D) and the resulting environmental Pressures (P), their effects on the State of the environment (S), the Impacts (I) and the societal Responses (R) resulting from these changes in the environment. DPSIR has been developed by OECD, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 1993). The DPSIR framework helps to design environmental assessments, to identify indicators, and to communicate results. It can be applied by a wide range of different users. A thorough understanding of the system is vital to the design process of BwN projects. DPSIR has provided the basis for national and international initiatives and is commonly used by the European Environment Agency in the execution of integrated environmental risk assessment studies. It is used to integrate socio economic and ecological processes to understand the forces that drive patterns of ecosystem changes (e.g. EEA, 1999).

Identification of ecological and socio-economic components (EcoMindmap)

In the philosophy of Building with Nature it is very important to know the system in which the intervention is projected (the first design step: understand the system). The ‘system’ involves the physical, ecological, socio-economical and governance setting. In this tool, the analysis of the ecosystem (biotic and abiotic) is discussed and the socio-economic and governance setting are considered briefly. A thorough mapping of the socio-economic system can be done using the Stakeholder analysis tool, and guidance on the mapping of the governance system can be found on the governance pages on the 'regulatory context'. Knowing what the ecosystem is like and how it functions and responds creates opportunities to improve the design of a project. If the important processes and features of the ecosystem are incorporated in the design, this will add value for nature and society. The added value for nature often has positive effects for humanity as well (see Contingent Valuation Method for Nature Valuation).

Ecosystem-Based Design Rules for Sand Extraction Sites

Due to the worldwide increase in the demand of marine sand and increase of other human activities space is becoming scarce. New sand extraction strategies are needed to optimise the use of space and safeguard the global supply of marine sand. Strategies which prevent against negative effects or even improve the productivity of an area is of interest. To safeguard the supply of sand for large reclamation and coastal protection works, new sand extraction strategies are needed to the balance between impacted surface area, sand yield, costs and ecological effects.

Traditionally sand extraction takes place in areas with water depths over 20 m. Until recently, extraction depths were restricted to 2 m below the seabed. In 2000, possibilities of extraction depths larger than 2 m below the seabed were explored (Boers et al. 2000). It became clear that in water depths of less than 40 m, the chance of reduced seawater oxygen content is rather small and that re-establishment of macrozoobenthos (organisms living in and on the seabed) on the seabed is possible.

Frame of Reference for specialist and end-user interaction

The Frame of Reference method aims to structure the interaction between end-users and specialists in application-oriented knowledge development. Key is to use the end-user's information requirements as an explicit starting point for knowledge development, and to continually match specialist research with the information need of end-users. A core element of the method is the definition of fit-for-purpose quantifiable performance indicators. The tool is potentially useful in any situation where miscommunication may arise in interaction between interdependent actors, with different states of knowledge, working on different parts of the same overall problem. Applying this method increases the probability that specialist research produces results that are applicable in policy development or practical application (van Koningsveld, 2003). The method relies on logic and structure and may thus be used by anyone.


Monitoring of coastal morphodynamics using satellite imagery

This tool aims to use observed morphodynamical changes of any coastal system during the last 30 years to predict future morphological effects to coastal interventions. This is done by the analysis of LandSat satellite imagery using Google Earth Engine. This platform enables quick selection and analysis of satellite imagery, using Google storage space and processing capacity. Since the first useful LandSat imagery was recorded in the early 1980’s, over 30 years of imagery is available for every place on earth. By first assessing past morphological changes along the coast where an intervention is planned, the morphodynamical system can be understood and predictions of future effects to interventions can be better predicted. These observed changes in the past also provide a valuable dataset to test the performance of models.

Geographical data and knowledge management (OpenEarth)

In current practice, research, consultancy and construction projects commonly spend a significant part of their budget to setup some basic infrastructure for data and knowledge management. Most of these efforts disappear again once the project is finished. As an alternative to these ad-hoc approaches, OpenEarth ( aims for a more continuous and cumulative approach to data & knowledge management. OpenEarth promotes, teaches and sustains project collaboration and skill sharing. As a result, research and consultancy projects no longer need to waste valuable resources by repeatedly starting from scratch. Rather they can build on the preserved efforts from countless projects before them.


Visualisation of open-source data (OpenEarth-Viewer)

The OpenEarth Viewer is a web application for visualising data, models and tools in a Google Earth interface. The set-up is such that data and models from different projects and cases can be viewed at the same time, which enables the user to see the interaction between different datasets and model results. A number of tools is available to perform (simple) actions on the data or run model simulations on the fly. Within Building with Nature (BwN), this application has been used to gain an easily accessible overview of the information that is generated in the program. However, the setup can also be used for data management in other projects.


Stakeholder analysis

This tool provides guidance on how to deal with stakeholders in project development, particularly for projects with a Building with Nature approach. Stakeholder management is an important discipline to both increase the quality of projects and win support from others. It helps ensure that projects are implemented and successful, where others fail and are discarded. It is of particular interest to professionals that have limited experience in how to involve stakeholders in project development and implementation. Experienced professionals tend to use similar frameworks on a subconscious level when managing projects. Being more explicit and structured in stakeholder analysis facilitates communication within project teams.


System Analysis

The natural system is the starting-point of any Building with Nature project. In order to develop solutions, the general scope and structure of the system need to be defined. To understand the physical, functional and regulatory aspects that are involved, a consistent systems approach is required.The Systems Analysis tool provides guidance to be able to apply this approach within the Building with Nature context, providing the theoretical background behind system analysis. For a more applied description of a system the Ecomindmap or the stakeholder analysis tool can be used. By definition any system analysis deals with elements and relationships between those elements. The action of the whole can only be understood by knowledge of the interactions of all the parts. The work of systems analysis is to select a system or subsystem to be analysed, define its boundary, identify the components and to develop models that describe the interaction of these components. It starts by insisting on a clear understanding of exactly what the problem is and the goal that should dominate the solution and lead to the criteria for evaluating alternative avenues.


Visual Thinking

Visual thinking is the process of translating one's thoughts to relatively simple images on paper. This process has proven to be very useful in assisting the development of concepts, identifying key elements, and synthesisng group ideas.  It follows the idea that “an image speaks a thousand words”. This tool description is based on the way a Dutch industrial design company (JAM) puts visual thinking into practice ( Building with Nature has implemented this tool during workshops to translate conceptual designing discussions into conceptual design visualisations. It successfully assisted with clarifying a certain issue at stake, including roles and responsibilities of people involved. It also helps in illuminating project objectives and to gain a distinct overview of the situation. The results serve as a communication tool for all people involved in the project.





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