The architectural community is evolving how it thinks about sustainable design.  The fact that design trends evolve is nothing new, but it takes experimentation and time to transition into the new design paradigms, and acceptance of something new always takes time to become mainstream.

The early 1970’s began the interest in alternative energies: natural gas, solar, conservation, natural light and ventilation.  Sustainable Design (reduce consumption, do no harm) was cutting edge in the early 1980’s, but became mainstream by 2000.

Now enter Regenerative Design: Human society and natural systems co-evolve as one.  The approaches of repairing the earth, restoring systems we’ve damaged and working with nature going forward are now seen as essential to keeping the human community economically resilient.  Design visionaries are now looking at how people collectively live and how to support healthy relationships between humans and the whole natural systems that surround us.

From an initial concept in early 2000, Regenerative Design 22 years later is picking up momentum.  Even political leaders talk about the country building back better, which connects to ideas in the regenerative design movement. It isn’t enough to just reestablish what was there before. We need to go beyond “Net Zero.”

Building designs are supposed to consider their use, function and impact within the overall human community, not as an independent island. This includes who has a say in what gets built. Larger public projects are expected to have more public input and buy-in as to what the community needs while still allowing the developer the opportunity to make a profit. The greater the community acceptance of the project, the more preconstruction coordination, the faster the projects can be permitted with fewer change orders and sooner the project completion. Location matters not just to people and economics but also for the environment. For example, locally sourced materials reduce the energy and carbon requirements to build and operate buildings.

While Regenerative Design represents the upcoming architectural design practice, we can’t overlook the continued need to design buildings to remain resilient during and after natural hazard events.  Without increasing disaster resilience, we will fall even more behind on our sustainability and regenerative goals. Buildings designed to be resilient will help the community to recover economically more quickly after a disaster and continue to evolve with nature.

Development of a Regenerative Design Model for Building Retrofits, Crafta, L. Dinga , D. Prasadb , L. Partridgea , D. Elsec, International High- Performance Built Environment Conference – A Sustainable Built Environment Conference 2016 Series (SBE16), iHBE 2016