Building with Nature as integrated design of infrastructures

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Many people associate Building with Nature with its flagship project, the Sand Motor. This mega-nourishment redefined the role of natural processes in civil engineering projects, demonstrating that instead of ‘do no harm’ as the highest possible supporting goal of coastal infrastructure, the design could incorporate natural processes to attain societal and ecological goals. As such, the Sand Motor represents a key example of the integrated design of civil infrastructures. In this contribution, we pursue an improved understanding of the integrated design of civil infrastructures, by comparing the illustrative example of the Sand Motor against a framework based on transport infrastructures and the occasional flood defence. It turns out that application of a framework from one domain to another - a conscious act of interdisciplinary learning - results in a modification of that framework. Although the domain of Building with Nature fits well with many existing attributes of integrated design for civil infrastructures (the life cycle approach, adaptive design and adding functionalities), its key attribute (dynamics) adds a unique box to the integrality index. This intellectual effort raises two issues. It demonstrates that our understanding of integrated design is rather specific for different infrastructure-domains. Second, it is likely that the bandwidth of uncertainty that is key to the incorporation of natural processes in infrastructure design, and the changing behaviour of the structure itself in the maintenance phase, has implications for the governance regime of such infrastructures.