Regenerative Development and Design

The emerging field of regenerative development and design marks a significant evolution in the concept and application of sustainability. Practices in sustainable or green design have focused primarily on minimizing damage to the environment and human health, and using resources more efficiently; in effect, slowing down the degradation of earth’s natural systems. Advocates of a regenerative approach to the built environment believe a much more deeply integrated, whole systems approach to the design and construction of buildings and human settlements (and nearly all other human activities) is needed. Regenerative approaches seek not only to reverse the degeneration of the earth’s natural systems but also to design human systems that can coevolve with natural systems—evolve in a way that generates mutual benefits and greater overall expression of life and resilience. The field of regenerative development and design, which draws inspiration from the self-healing and self-organizing capacities of natural living systems, is increasingly seen as a source for achieving this end. This field is redefining the way that proponents of sustainability are thinking about and designing for the built environment, and even the role of architecture as a field.

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Designing from Place:- A Regenerative Framework and Methodology

The radical changes required for Earth to “remain fit for human habitation” require a change in worldviews from ‘mechanistic’ to ‘ecological’. A key question is: how can those working in the built environment—a field with major impact on global resources and systems – best support a smooth and timely transition? It is proposed that design practitioners can facilitate that response in the built environment through the development, application, and evolution of comprehensive new methodologies, explicitly shaped by a regenerative sustainability paradigm. It is further proposed that successfully evolving a regenerative practice requires going beyond just adopting new techniques to taking on a new role for humans and designers, and a “new mind,” and learning how to work “developmentally.” As an example of how a consciously held worldview shapes a practice, an actual regenerative methodology, developed and evolved over 16 years of practice, is explored in detail. A framework, adapted from accepted scientific methodology protocols, is used to structure this exploration, differentiating the different elements and levels, showing how they work as an integrated system and revealing the underlying premises and assumptions behind the choice of aims, strategies, methods, and progress indicators.

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Regenerative design and development: – current theory and practice

This notion of regeneration – ‘rebirth’ or ‘renewal’ – has been variously applied in relation to the built environment and the communities it supports following major acts of devastation or when a prior condition had declined to an extent considered ripe for renewal – and, of course, where the commitment has been found to initiate rebuilding. The resulting transformed condition, while embodying traces from its prior condition, is infused with new aspirations and possibilities. Over the past years, however, regeneration has been garnering increasing interest as a means of reframing green building practices and, carrying with it, qualitatively different and broader connotations than that used previously.

This special issue of Building Research & Information explores the current theory and practice of ‘regenerative’ design as it applies to community planning and building design. Regenerative design, as used here, relates to approaches that support the co-evolution of human and natural systems in a partnered relationship. It is not the building that is ‘regenerated’ in the same sense as the self-healing and self-organizing attributes of a living system, but by the ways that the act of building can be a catalyst for positive change within the unique ‘place’ in which it is situated. Within regenerative development, built projects, stakeholder processes, and inhabitation are collectively focused on enhancing life in all its manifestations – human, other species, ecological systems – through an enduring responsibility of stewardship.

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Toward Regenerative Society – Plan for Rapid Transition

We have only a short period of time available to bring about an epochal shift of human consciousness and civilization. If we continue business as usual, we will doom our children to a desperate world that may soon be uninhabitable. In the short term, as glaciers melt and sea levels rise, we will consign hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in the Global South to miserable fates. Beyond that, as Thom Hartmann writes, we have discovered that accelerated global warming is a “formula for extinction.” In past extinction events, “Something happens to increase global temperatures five to six degrees, which triggers a melting of the frozen carbon and methane oceanic reserves that then leads to further global warming devastating life on Earth.” If we care about the future of human existence, as well as the continuity of life on Earth, we have a moral obligation – individually and collectively – to transform our culture rapidly and institute a regenerative society. Along with our ability to confront climate change and other aspects of the ecological crisis, we possess the technical capacities to liberate humanity, in the future, from unnecessary drudgery and brute labor. As we reckon with the ecological crisis we have unleashed, we will construct a post-work civilization, based on self-cultivation and collective responsibility, that is greater than anything we have known before. While it threatens us, the ecological mega-crisis also provides a unique opportunity to bring about the evolution of global civilization. If we utilize the power of social innovation and apply our technical abilities for collective benefit, we can establish a truly free society, based on justice and righteousness, sharing and cooperation, direct democracy and world peace – a world where all take care of all.

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Regenerative design, socio-ecological systems and co-evolution

A key notion in regenerative design is the co-evolutionary, partnered relationship between socio-cultural and ecological systems, which requires an explicit engagement with the implications and consequences of future design decisions. However, despite the extensive literature in other disciplines regarding the co-evolution of socio-cultural and ecological systems, this approach has yet to receive serious scrutiny within the context of the built environment and within the emerging notions of regenerative development and design. Drawing on an interdisciplinary body of literature, a discussion is initiated on how socio-cultural and ecological systems and their co-evolution might connect to the concept of regenerative design. Following a critique of a relevant example highlighting the current practice of regenerative design, the new building for the Centre for Interactive Research on  Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, potentially relevant aspects of a socio-ecological system and of evolution theories are examined for the built environment. Several observations are presented on how these may offer a stronger theoretical framing of regenerative design, particularly the shifts in design thinking: from buildings as artifacts to their dynamic

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Designing Regenerative Cultures

This is a ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ for the 21st century: an impressive and wide-ranging analysis of what’s wrong with our societies, organizations, ideologies, worldviews and cultures – and how to put them right. The book covers the finance system, agriculture, design, ecology, economy, sustainability, organizations and society at large. In this remarkable book, Daniel Wahl explores ways in which we can reframe and understand the crises that we currently face, and he explores how we can live our way into the future. Moving from patterns of thinking and believing to our practice of education, design and community living, he systematically shows how we can stop chasing the mirage of certainty and control in a complex and unpredictable world. The book asks how can we collaborate in the creation of diverse regenerative cultures adapted to the unique biocultural conditions of place? How can we create conditions conducive to life? “This book is a valuable contribution to the important discussion of the worldview and value system we need to redesign our businesses, economies, and technologies – in fact, our entire culture – so as to make them regenerative rather than destructive.” –Fritjof Capra, author of The Web of Life, co-author of The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision.

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Citizen-generated data and Sustainable Development

Ssanyu Rebecca at Making All Voices Count: “The call for a data revolution by the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel in the run up to Agenda 2030 stimulated debate and action in terms of innovative ways of generating and sharing data. Since then, technological advances have supported increased access to data and information through initiatives such as open data platforms and SMS-based citizen reporting systems. The main driving force for these advances is for data to be timely and usable in decision-making. Among the several actors in the data field are the proponents of citizen-generated data (CGD) who assert its potential in the context of the sustainable development agenda. Nevertheless, there is need for more evidence on the potential of CGD in influencing policy and service delivery, and contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Our study on Citizen-generated data in the information ecosystem: exploring links for sustainable development sought to obtain answers. Using case studies on the use of CGD in two different scenarios in Uganda and Kenya, Development Research and Training (DRT) and Development Initiatives (DI) collaborated to carry out this one-year study.

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Climate change is causing a major redistribution of Life on Earth

Last year in Paris, for the very first time, English sparkling wine beat champagne in a blind tasting event. Well established French Champagne houses have started buying fields in Britain to grow grapes, and even the royal family is investing in this new venture. At the same time, coffee-growing regions are shrinking and shifting. Farmers are being forced to move to higher altitudes, as the band in which to grow tasty coffee moves up the mountain.The evidence that climate change is affecting some of our most prized beverages is simply too great to be ignored. So while British sparkling wine and the beginning of the “coffeepocalypse” were inconceivable just a few decades ago, they are now a reality. It’s unlikely that you’ll find many climate deniers among winemakers and coffee connoisseurs. But there are far greater impacts in store for human society than disruptions to our favourite drinks. Dramatic examples of climate-mediated change to species distributions are not exceptions; they are fast becoming the rule. As our study published last week in the journal Science shows, climate change is driving a universal major redistribution of life on Earth.

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City Regions as Landscapes for People, Food and Nature

This paper is focused on how agriculture – including the natural and cultural resources that sustain people in and around cities, and even in remote rural areas – provides important and reciprocal benefits to the sustainable development of both rural and urban communities. Practitioners and policymakers active in the relatively new fields of urban and regional or territorial planning for sustainability and resilience are beginning to engage issues of food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture. Historically, there has been very little systematic food related planning or policy by subnational or local authorities. Landscape or place based approaches to food system planning, such as the newly termed “city region food system,” are signs that this is changing. Rethinking the urban rural continuum comprising urban, peri-urban and rural landscapes can help integrate food and nutrition security with climate action planning, disaster risk reduction, economic and community development, water, biodiversity and other aspects of natural resource management. This is a multifaceted and evolving process for many practitioners located in both urban and rural landscapes in both high-income and low-income countries.

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Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy

Western environmental philosophers and some of our most distinguished representatives of Asian and comparative philosophy critically consider what Asia has to offer.

The first section provides an ecological world view as a basis for comparison. Subsequent sections include chapters by leading contemporary scholars in Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Buddhist thought that explore the Western perception of Asian traditions, the perception that Asian philosophy is a rich conceptual resource for contemporary environmental thinkers.

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