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Insights Live! resources: Outdoor Premises

Insights Live! Mastering Sustainable Outdoor Premises - Natural History Museum London


5 December 2023


The Insights Live! event "Mastering Sustainable Outdoor Premises", gave multiple perspectives and different angles on how to approach all types of outdoor areas from gardens to water parks.

We were joined by John Tweddle, Head of Centre for UK Nature and Natalie Tacq, Senior Project and Programme Manager of the Natural History Museum, London to talk about the initiatives and programmes they are putting in place to encourage sustainability through their outdoor premises. The Natural History Museum, London are no strangers to sustainable outdoor spaces, for example, their Urban Nature Project aims to safeguard nature in towns and cities.

In line with this project, the Natural History Museum has been embarking on their own personally ambitious project to renovate their outdoor space to make it more functional and able to address visitors’ needs as well as involving sustainability measures in every step of the process.

In early 2020, the Natural History Museum outlined the sustainability aims for the design, construction and occupation periods of their outdoor space, requiring a sustainability calculation at every stage as well as including a carbon budget in addition to a cost budget.

Some of the aims included:

  • Be a diesel-free construction site
  • Achieve net zero carbon
  • Send zero waste to landfill and max 15% to energy recovery
  • Source materials responsibly and only use certified sustainable materials
  • Source major building materials within 100 miles (160 kilometres)
  • Meet restricted energy and water consumption targets
  • Enable strategic water management, using a bore hole and rainwater diversion for irrigation
  • Energy efficient buildings

Natalie Tacq was able to report that while the project is not yet finished, they are well on their way to achieving these aims. Keep an eye out for the opening of the Natural History Museum’s new outdoor area in the summer of 2024. Follow their progress here.

Watch Natalie & John's talk on Ecsite's YouTube channel

We were also lucky to be joined by Natacha Buts, Innovation Project Leader of Hidrodoe – a science museum which focusses on the importance of water and the preservation of it for future generations. We heard about their “green approach for their Blue Garden”, a water themed outdoor space, which is being renovated with sustainability and longevity in mind. Hidrodoe are using this renovation as an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of recycling, reusing and infiltrating water which was missing from some of their indoor exhibitions.

But it’s not just the Blue Garden that is getting a sustainable renovation. Hidrodoe has also worked hard to make the green spaces around their museum more sustainable and practical by choosing plants and trees that will replace shade structures. In order to do this in the most efficient way, the team, along with local arborists, had planned a detailed ‘shade map’ to place the trees in the ideal positions to complement their aesthetic placement. In addition, Hidrodoe have chosen trees that are best suited to their local terrain and that will have a minimum effect on those suffering from allergies as well as species with non-invasive roots.

The Blue Garden is expected to be finished in May 2024, see more here.

Watch Natacha's talk on Ecsite's YouTube channel

We also had the chance to hear from experimenta's Director of Exhibition Development, Christian Sichau, who shared with us the strides experimenta has made in transforming their outdoor premises from a road to a green area for all to enjoy. For the 2022 Ecsite Conference, experimenta created the Ecsite Smart Festival Forest, a calm, green space filled with trees and bushes covering over 800m². The Forest has been such a success that it won the ‘Sustainability and climate adaptation in urban areas’ prize at the Baden-Württemberg Landscape Architecture Prize 2024!


  • Wildlife Welcome Zone: Embrace local wildlife in urban areas to boost biodiversity. Foxes and friends can play a vital role too.
  • Don't be shy: Shout your green goals from the rooftops! Hold yourself accountable by sharing your sustainability mission inside and outside the organisation.
  • Green Dream Team: Rally everyone, from funders to builders to take part in your vision. For example, the Natural History Museum's morning workshops with their construction team, making sure they surveyed the building sites for any newts or frogs and moved them to a safe spot.
  • Be practical: A great tip from Hidrodoe was to choose hypoallergenic trees so that even those with intense allergies can enjoy outside spaces. Hidrodoe also developed a shade plan so that they could take this into consideration as well as the aesthetic placement of the trees.
  • If it's not broke, don't fix it: Hidrodoe understood that some water installations in their Blue Water Garden were incredibly popular so they kept the classics.
  • Be innovative: Hidrodoe have developed 'Blue Elephants' which take wastewater treatment to the next level, transforming polluted water for the toilets to treated water for flushing. Therefore, the rainwater that was previously used can be used elsewhere. These Blue Elephants are to be released in September 2024.


John Tweddle: j.tweddle@nhm.ac.uk

Natalie Tacq: n.tacq@nhm.ac.uk

Natacha Buts: natacha.buts@pidpa.be

Hilde de Laet: hilde.delaet@pipda.be


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