The Siebenmatten property of the AXA investment foundation located in the Rohr suburb of Aargau has been awarded certification for its biodiverse landscaping by the Stiftung Natur & Wirtschaft (Nature & Economy Foundation). More properties should be following suit in the future.
Lilacs have been replaced with wild shrubs, stones have been piled up around the hedges and the lawn is interlaced with a variety of blooming wildflowers. The AXA Siebenmatten residential development has upgraded its landscaping to improve biodiversity so it now provides a better habitat for insects and small animals such as hedgehogs and lizards. It has been awarded certification for properties with especially biodiverse landscaping by the Natur und Wirtschaft Foundation. The new plantings far exceed the minimum requirements. As expert Simon Bächli at the Natur und Wirtschaft Foundation points out, “In order to receive certification, at least 30 percent of the space needs to have biodiverse landscaping. I am happy to say that the Siebenmatten complex has exceeded this amount.”
Given the continued growth in population, making a conscious effort to improve green spaces in residential areas is more important than ever. Nature and biodiversity have a positive impact both on our health and on the climate. And as available living space becomes more scarce and more densely populated, our residential areas will need to be redesigned. “If we have to build more densely, then we should build up. And wherever possible, roofs should be greened in order to provide more natural habitats for plants and animals,” says Bächli.
A biodiverse landscape should offer habitats for a wide variety of plants and animals. In terms of properties, this means that biodiversity must be intentionally encouraged both on the buildings and in the space around them. This can take the form of either greened rooftops or more native plantings around the building. “Piles of branches or stones provide shelter for small animals of all kinds,” states Bächli. Other useful measures include replacing invasive non-native plants with natives or creating ruderal areas. “Ruderal areas are open spaces covered in gravel that provide a place for numerous different kinds of plants and insects to live,” he explains.
Summers are becoming hotter because developed areas increase the ambient temperature. This creates heat islands, which make the inside of buildings less comfortable so we have to spend more money on air-conditioning. Green spaces can help reverse this trend and also provide living space for a wide range of species. According to expert Simon Bächli, residents in biodiverse apartment complexes generally benefit from an increased quality of life: Children have more to discover outdoors and adults can use the green spaces as natural parks for recharging.
The Siebenmatten housing development is the first in the portfolio of properties owned by AXA to receive certification. More are set to follow. “Siebenmatten is only the beginning. A pilot project with seven properties that will be re-landscaped with biodiverse spaces has been running since 2022,” says Leah Gelardini, Asset Management Analyst at AXA Investment Managers Switzerland. The pilot project is aimed at discovering which measures can be rolled out across the entire real estate portfolio. “As part of the pilot project and our sustainability strategy, we intend to enhance some 44,300 square meters of landscaping with biodiverse planting,” continues Gelardini. The new wildscapes will be planted in spring 2024, and the properties will receive certification when the work is completed.
The Natur und Wirtschaft Foundation advances the incorporation of nature into residential areas and certifies exemplary sites. Since 2014, the Foundation has been recognizing the engagement of builders and property owners. It also provides certification for residential areas that are landscaped to mimic natural spaces and offers support for planning biodiverse environments.
AXA is passionate about biodiversity. In celebration of our 150th anniversary in 2025, we are restoring biodiversity on some two million square meters of land as part of our Flora Futura initiative. By the end of 2025, biodiverse habitats covering a total of about 280 football fields should be completed through investments in various restoration projects.