Animal-Aided Design

Many wild animals live in cities. There are many reasons for this abundance of wildlife: cities offer wild animals a wide range of food choices, a warm climate, and suitable habitats due to small-scale structures and diverse green areas. In addition to typical city species such as the blackbird or hedgehog, many other species of wildlife can live in the city if the necessary resources are available for both offspring and adults.

Urban nature including wildlife can play a central role for the contact to nature of city dwellers. If wildlife occurs where people live and where they work, nature can be experienced on a day-to-day basis. In the Baysics  project we investigate which animals people in the city would like to have in their living environment.

However, green and open spaces, which serve people as places of recreation and conviviality, and which are the habitat of wild animals, are becoming increasingly rare, due to city densification. Many cities are therefore looking for strategies to counteract the loss of urban nature, and to secure and develop urban green infrastructure. This will not succeed without actively integrating nature conservation into urban planning processes.

Animal-Aided Design

In 2015, we developed the method Animal-Aided Design (AAD), which enables an integrated view of housing construction and nature conservation, and that combines these concerns, which are often regarded as incompatible (Hauck & Weisser 2015). AAD is a planning and design method that can serve as an interface between the very different disciplines of urban planning (from architecture to traffic planning, general urban planning to landscape architecture), ecology and nature conservation. The aim of the integrative planning process is to explicitly plan the occurrence of animals in urban open spaces and to incorporate them into their design.

Thus, at the beginning of the planning process stands the question "Which animals should occur in the open space? The selection of target species that will later live in the area should be made as early as possible during the planning cycle (Apfelbeck et al. 2019). Target species may be species that are already present at the site that is developed and that may be threatened by the development. However, the choice of target species is not restricted to species that are already there, and also not to species that are threatened or of prime conservation concern. AAD aims to increase biodiversity in the city rather than just maintaining the status quo. Thus, a target species may also be a species that stakeholders find attractive, e.g. a bird such as the blackbird that has an attractive song, or that is interesting to watch. A procedure of how to choose target species is described in Apfelbeck et al. (2019). In order to choose a species that is a realistic target species, constraints and opportunities of the development site need to be analysed, and first drafts of species portraits need to be made. It is not primarily a matter of protecting rare species that already occur in a planning area, but rather of making a comprehensible selection as to which species should be actively promoted.

This selection process makes it possible to involve the various local stakeholders and to enable co-determination even before the target species are established. Landscape architectural or urban design planning offers suitable scale levels to develop a catalogue of measures that covers the needs of the respective target species.

AAD focuses on the needs of individual species and aims to integrate these needs into landscape architectural and urban design planning, in order to enable new urban nature images and experiences. In contrast to "unformed" nature, such as the concept of "urban wilderness", AAD, as in all garden design and landscape architecture, creates a new "image of nature" or reconstructs an existing one, and offers it to the respective viewer and user for the purpose of aesthetic experience. AAD considers wild animals in a creative context, similar to the way plants have been used for a long time in garden design and landscape architecture.

As a method, AAD provides the knowledge and tools for "designing with animals". The species-specific approach allows a great deal of creative freedom and opens up the possibility of involving stakeholders in the selection of species and the design of habitat structures for the chosen species. In addition, it offers the possibility of flexibly responding to the spatial and functional potentials and obstacles of urban open spaces. AAD is not limited to the fulfilment of individual conditions such as the installation of animal housing (such as nesting boxes or hedgehog houses) or the provision of feeding areas. Such individual measures, such as the hanging of nest boxes or bee hotels, mean that only some of the needs of the target species are met. Essential other factors in the life cycle of the animals are ignored and left to chance. It is therefore important that the measures and building blocks developed with the help of AAD become an integrated part of an overall design in a cooperative design process. As the various designs with AAD show, it is worthwhile to translate the special needs of the animals into critical site factors so that their habitat requirements (nesting site, food, mating place) can be taken as a starting point for design considerations - they can inspire a design.

The following schemes shows the planning cycle of Animal-Aided Design: PDF

Animal-Aided Design is an example of „Wildlife-inclusive urban design“ (Apfelbeck et al. 2020) and shows how wildlife can be integrated into urban planning procedures.

Animal-Aided Design in practice

Housing companies contribute significantly to the design of cities and their open spaces. In a survey of housing companies in Germany, we found that according to the companies, open spaces in the urban living environment should, above all, enhance the quality of life for residents, as well as being safe and clean (Jakoby et al. 2019). In general, companies are positive about wildlife-enhancing measures if they can improve the quality of living of humans as well as the company's image. The results of the survey show that housing companies are willing to promote wildlife in the living environment. Animal-Aided Design is a method that allows such promotion of wild animals.

In a research project funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, we were able to test, in cooperation with several housing companies, how the needs of three target species, the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) – a mammal, the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) -  birds, and the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta, Syn.: Pyrameis atalanta) – a butterfly, can be taken into account in projects in practice (Hauck & Weisser 2019). The projects concerned were new construction projects, refurbishments or changes in the maintenance procedures of the green spaces. In all example projects, the critical needs of all animals could be met, mostly by adjustments to measures planned anyway. The necessary adjustments were in some cases very small and thus potentially not very expensive. It turned out that it was important for the acceptance of proposed AAD measures that there were synergies between the planning objectives in the building project and wildlife-specific measures, in the sense of a multifunctional use of planned elements, which also saves costs. In order to be able to use these synergies, it is important that the planning and execution of AAD measures are well integrated into the planning processes. In this context, challenges in the integration of animal needs and some technical aspects (such as water provision) must be carefully planned for successful implementation (Hauck & Weisser 2019).

Animal-aided design can also be integrated into higher-level strategies for green planning or networking strategies in nature conservation. An example application took place in Ingolstadt as part of a student project (Bischer et al. 2018, only in German).

The first construction project in which the Animal-Aided Design method was applied is a classic post-construction project in the city of Munich. The Bavarian State Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection promoted the planning for the target species hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), house sparrow (Passer domesticus, green woodpecker (Picus viridis) and the pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) as part of the research Centre for Urban Nature and Climate Adaptation. Through close cooperation with the developer, the GEWOFAG Wohnen GmbH, the architects of bogevischs buero, the landscape architecture office michellerundschalk and the Landesbund für Vogelschutz (LBV), both the building construction and the open space planning were optimized for humans and target species. Completion is in 2020 and since then monitoring has been carried out to see whether the target species accept the planning.

The measures for the target species included adapting the planting plan, creating living space for sparrows and bats in the façade in consultation with the architects, a "hedgehog drawer" as daytime refuge and wintering facility, and a "woodpecker lantern" as a breeding place for green woodpeckers and other bird species. In addition, structural traps such as cellar shafts from which animals cannot escape were avoided.

Nationwide we are currently in contact with a number of housing companies to further explore the practical application of the Animal-Aided Design method

Animal – Aided Design in der Brantstraße. Detaillierte und technische Beschreibung der Maßnahmen für Tiere

Animal–Aided Design in der Brantstraße - Broschüre - Konferenzversion -

Animal–Aided Design in der Brantstraße - Technischer Anhang - Konferenzversion -


Apfelbeck, B., Jakoby, C., Hanusch, M., Steffani, E.B., Hauck, T.E. & Weisser, W.W. (2019) A conceptual framework for choosing target species for wildlife-inclusive urban design. Sustainability, 11, 6972.

Apfelbeck, B., Snep, R.P.H., Hauck, T.E., Ferguson, J., Holy, M., Jakoby, C., Scott MacIvor, J., Schär, L., Taylor, M. & Weisser, W.W. (2020) Designing wildlife-inclusive cities that support human-animal co-existence. Landscape and Urban Planning, 200, 103817.

Bischer, R., Hauck, T.E., Mühlbauer, M., Piecha, J., Reischl, A., Scherling, A., Weisser, W.W. (2018) INGOLSTADTNATUR: Animal-Aided Design für den Stadtpark Donau in Ingolstadt – Entwürfe von Studentinnen und Studenten der Universität Kassel und der Technischen Universität München. Die Broschüre resultiert aus dem Forschungsprojekt Anwendung der Methode Animal-Aided Design (AAD) (TLK01U-69361), gefördert vom Bayerischen Staatsministerium für Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz im Rahmen des Zentrums Stadtnatur und Klimaanpassung.

Jakoby, C., Rogers, R., Apfelbeck, B., Hauck, T. & Weisser, W.W. (2019) Wildtiere im Wohnumfeld: wie werden sie von Wohnungsunternehmen bewertet?  Natur und Landschaft, 5, 181-187.

Hauck, T. & Weisser, W.W. (2015) AAD Animal-Aided Design. ISBN 978-3-00-047519-1. Die Broschüre resultierte aus dem Forschungsprojekt „Animal-Aided Design (AAD) - Tiergerechte Gestaltung von Freiräumen im Rahmen der Klimaanpassung“ (TUF01UF-65043), gefördert vom Bayerischen Staatsministerium für Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz im Rahmen des Zentrums Stadtnatur und Klimaanpassung. 

Hauck, T. & Weisser, W.W. (Herausgeber, 2019) Animal-Aided Design im Wohnumfeld. Einbeziehung der Bedürfnisse von Tierarten in die Planung und Gestaltung städtischer Freiräume. Die Broschüre enstand im Rahmen der vom Bundesamt für Naturschutz finanzierten Vorunter suchung (VU) im Rahmen eines Erprobungs- und Entwicklungsvorhabens (E+E-Vorhaben): Animal-Aided Design – Einbeziehung von Tierbedürfnissen in die Planung und Gestaltung von Freiräumen