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Nadine van den Berg wins Sustainable Design Principle Thesis Prize

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Nadine van den Berg (TU Delft) has won the 2021 Witteveen+Bos Sustainable Design Principles Thesis Prize. The announcement was made by jury chair Sebastiaan Schep during the digital award ceremony on 16 December 2021. Nadine’s thesis was described by the jury as 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 prize was presented for the first time this year to mark our 75th anniversary.

One of the seven Witteveen+Bos sustainable design principles will be central to each year’s prize, this year’s being the Building with Nature principle. Witteveen+Bos aims to use the prize to stimulate the next generation of consultants and engineers to practise sustainable design. The principle chosen for the next edition of the prize is Trias.


Nadine’s thesis, ‘Urban waterbodies: Stimulating an ecosystem-resilient city by integrating climate sensitivity in human-oriented urban design in Houston’, made use of Building with Nature alongside other sustainable design principles. The jury noted that she uses very striking illustrations to underline the added social value of nature-based solutions. She also pays 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 employ nature- and climate-friendly solutions.

Second place

Anouk Fransen (Utrecht University) came in second with her thesis, ‘Biodiversity, a ‘regrettable’ solution for climate change? A discourse analysis on the governing of biodiversity by transnational climate initiatives’. The jury described Anouk’s thesis as highlighting the contradictions of 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. With this confronting realisation, she provides an essential contribution to the further development of the Building with Nature design principle – in particular, in relation to SDGs and biodiversity.

Third place

Vic Lagrouw and Peter van Munnen (HAS) came in 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 together form a well-functioning and future-proof whole. They used the Aa or Weerijs catchment area to exemplify this. According to the jury, their thesis describes an appealing and realistic image of the catchment area of the future and uses the area’s unique features and functioning to effectively give the different 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 and 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 consisted 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).