Restorative and Regenerative Design

Ecological design enables people to use ecological principles to inform the creation of buildings and other structures which function with, rather than against, natural processes of ecology and thermodynamics.
Within this realm, regenerative design is a way to describe the relationships articulated around buildings (and social systems which are responsible for buildings) which result in building+user systems (we could just say “building systems” since this implies a user “ no building has no user “ there is always at least the maker) that enable a continuing evolution of the potential of the ecosystems of which the building is a component. Regenerative design is the practice of ensuring built structures participate in the ecosystem positively, toward facilitating and encouraging those systems’ diversity, creativity and beauty.

Restorative design is a subset of this, which I was describing last week “ non exceptionalist, ecologically lawful, adding to natural and social capital, and providing for ongoing ecoliteracy of the participants. Regenerative design would participate in these trends but also make room not only to add to natural capital, but add to nature or create space for nature to evolve, for humans to evolve with nature to a sustainable, steady dynamic equilibrium, always open to new creativity. This is the way Dr. John Todd’s ecomachines are regenerative “ we are assembling components which can do new things because of their new relationships/arrangements in the tanks. The trick is to design without the creativity leading to compromise, but creativity participating in further creativity.

We have been talking about sustainable design and how it is not enough, only taking us to Bill Reed’s “neutral” zone. I have been very interested in restorative design as the next step which makes up for our transgressions. Regenerative design implies the larger process and relationships of stewardship, while restorative design is more applicable to particular projects and how they are arranged to be sustainable buildings that net carbon or export joules into the built environment. If you could design something regeneratively, it would have all of the restorative elements. Regenerative design is at the planning and community level, incorporating all the systems of extraction, transportation, utilization and disassembly and/or reuse or dispertion to the environment. Regenerative design seem is a way of describing a broad orbiting pattern of ideas which takes us from doing no harm, to cleaning up the mess, to being at one with the spontaneous potentiality of nature.

[This is from a series of posts to my course forum for Sustainable Design at the Boston Architecture College]

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