Published on 20 December 2021

Nadine van den Berg wins sustainable design principle thesis award

Nadine van den Berg (TU Delft) has won the 2021 Witteveen+Bos sustainable design principle thesis award. This was announced by jury chair Sebastiaan Schep during the digital award ceremony on 16 December 2021. According to the jury, Nadine’s thesis was an extremely appealing, integrated and well-argued outline of a social, nature and climate-robust future scenario for the city of Houston (USA). The thesis award was presented for the first time this year to mark our 75th anniversary.

One of the Witteveen+Bos seven sustainable design principles is key to each thesis award, with this year’s theme being ‘Building with Nature’. Witteveen+Bos aims to use this award to stimulate the next generation of advisers and engineers to engage in sustainable design. The next edition of the award will be themed ‘Trias’.


Nadine’s thesis Urban Waterbodies: Stimulating an ecosystem-resilient city by integrating climate sensitivity in human-oriented urban design in Houston used the ‘Building with nature’ principle as well as other sustainable design principles. According to the jury, she used very striking illustrations to underline the social added value of nature-based solutions. She also paid close attention to Houston’s current unique system in relation to its environment and derived scenarios based on this. Her thesis is multifaceted and inspires others to use nature and climate-friendly solutions.

Second place

Anouk Fransen (Utrecht University) came second with her thesis ‘Biodiversity, a ‘regrettable’ solution for climate change? A discourse analysis on the governing of biodiversity by transnational climate initiatives’. According to the jury, Anouk’s thesis highlights the contradictions in focusing on Nature-Based Solutions, which are increasingly used as a panacea for climate change and biodiversity loss. She argues from a philosophical perspective that we overlook or trivialise certain essential aspects of biodiversity by reducing nature or biodiversity to a ‘solution’ or ‘service’ for issues such as climate change. This leads to extremely high social risks. She uses this painful mirror to deliver an essential contribution to further developing the ‘Building with nature’ design principle in relation to SDGs and biodiversity in particular.

Third place

Vic Lagrouw and Peter van Munnen (HAS) came third with their thesis ‘Climate-robust landscapes - design-oriented research into a healthier balance between soil, water, nature, and agriculture in the land of the Aa or Weerijs areas’. In their thesis, Vic and Peter address the question of how to integrate climate robust landscapes spatially so that soil, water, agriculture and nature form a functioning and future-proof entity. They used the Aa or Weerijs catchment area to elaborate on this. According to the jury the thesis outlines an appealing and realistic image of the catchment area of the future and uses the catchment area’s unique features and functioning as a way to give the functions a logical place in the landscape. It is a complete and richly illustrated analysis that can serve as an example for other areas with similar challenges. This will further assist Witteveen+Bos in developing an integrated system analysis of catchment areas.

There were also honourable mentions for Pauline Janssen (Towards a nature-based solution for the Brouwersdam beach in the Netherlands) and René de Koning (Effectiveness of Mangroves in Flood Risk Reduction), both from TU Delft.


This year the jury consists of Ralph Lindeboom PhD (TU Delft), Charon Zondervan PhD (WUR), Arjen van Nieuwenhuijzen PhD (Witteveen+Bos), Sebastiaan Schep MA (Witteveen+Bos), Tom Wilms MSc (Witteveen+Bos) and CSR coordinator Rosanne Hamers (Witteveen+Bos).

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