Regenerative Development and Design
To create a design with true sustainability, considerations must extend far beyond siting, materials, and efficiency. Designers must look at the place, it's inhabitants, and the purpose-the whole living ecosystem-and proceed with their work from that more humbling perspective. The finished product should itself be an ecosystem and sustainable economy, which is the root of the regenerative development approach. Sustainability has evolved, and the designer's responsibility has increased in kind. Regenerative Development and Design provides an authoritative resource for those ready to take the next step forward. PAMELA MANG and BEN HAGGARD are founding members of Regenesis Group, a coalition of experienced design, land-use, planning, business, and development professionals who focus on regenerative design and development. Regenesis was founded on the belief that environmental problems are more cultural and psychological than technological, and works to forward Living Systems Thinking as a framework for breaking the stagnation and developing a symbiotic relationship between people and the places they design and inhabit.
Regenerative Development and Design
Predictions of the future can be hazardous or downright foolish. But the failure of foresight-the inability to read the hand-writing on the wall-is even more so. Designers of all kinds work in the conflicted space between these two poles. Their goal is to improve small parts of a rapidly changing world with the tools of form, scale, materials, energy, water, color, landscape, and the creativity that is found most often at the grassroots level. But what needs to be improved?
The short answer is "a great deal," including an energy system that is rapidly destabilizing the climate, an economy driving tens of thousands of species to extinction, a political system that sanctions gross inequality, an uncivil society, the growing autism toward the natural world, and a global system mired in conflict. These are related problems, parts of a larger civilizational crisis with roots traceable to the seventeenth century authors of the mechanical world view. But there are deeper pathologies with footprints back to our ancient schizophrenia toward the natural world that had to be tamed a bit before it could be appreciated.
Designers, however, typically do not work at the macro scale of civilization for good reasons. Whether as architecture, engineering, materials, or landscapes, design is bounded by the minute particulars of projects in their specific social, cultural, and historical context. As a result designers work from the bottom up on projects at the building, neighborhood, and city scales. But the big problems mentioned above are in large part the sum total of bad design (including that of public policies) at lower levels. There are many reasons for bad design, not the least of which is a professional focus on form-making, often oblivious to other consequences.
Beginning in the 1970s a few renegade architects like Sim Van der Ryn in California became concerned about the collateral environmental impacts of the design professions. Van der Ryn envisioned ecological design as the calibration of buildings with their places, which required further integral understanding of landscapes, energy flows, waste cycling, materials, sunlight, water, and ecological processes. Ecological design, in other words, aims to calibrate human actions with the way natural systems work as particular places, larger landscapes, and whole ecologies. It aims to work with, not against, the flows of energy and natural cycling of materials. The goal, in short, was to reduce environmental impacts of the "built environment" in a civilization that prized economic expansion above all else with hardly a thought for the morrow.
What began so modestly in the 1970s has rapidly grown into a global movement to harmonize buildings, neighborhoods, and cities with the surrounding nature. After the publication of the Brundtland Commission report in 1987, the goals of ecological designers expanded to embrace the wider (but vague) mission of sustainability. But we know now that that word signifies more than was once assumed. Sustainability is the sum total of other qualities. As Chattanooga City Councilman, David Crockett puts it: "make it clean, green, safe, and fair and it will be sustainable." The left side of that equation, however, requires the elimination of the growing inequality that is a precursor to violence and ruined lives. It further requires rethinking our core assumptions about the relation between economic growth and real progress. Ecological design, in other words, must be large enough in foresight, scope, and heart to include the social and economic environment in which it is embedded. In that way ecological design is a radical endeavor in the true sense of the word, it gets to the root of what ails us.
The work described in this book takes design to yet another level that aims to regenerate the fabric of life and repair the wounds and tears inflicted by the carelessness of the fossil-fuel