81. Beyond Sustainability—Regenerative Development
There is a growing movement of responsible world citizens who want to do more than simply “do less harm”. Sustainable development or ‘achieving a steady state’ is neutral or ‘100 per cent less bad’, is not good enough. We must do far more than limit the damage caused by our lives on this planet.
The World pop grew from 1.6 B in 1900, to 6 B by 2000. We need to think differently and plan intentionally for the next 100 years of human growth on this resilient planet, to assure that every person has access to the resources needed for work, play, shelter, energy, water, food, health and happiness.
The U.S. consumes enough natural resources to take up 4.1 Earths. The only reason we haven’t exceeded the Earth’s capacity to support its 7 B global pop is that the rest of the world is balancing out the U.S. by using a more sustainable percentage of the Earth’s resources. However, with the rise in population and the rapid industrialization of emerging countries that balance is in jeopardy.
A new vision and leadership is needed—a vision of integrated, whole-systems development that becomes a catalyst for the creation of self-evolving bio-regional infrastructures and cultures of regeneration, thereby restoring the planet’s capacity to regenerate itself and humans’ capacity to live in harmony with our habitat and home. There is great hope called, “regenerative design and development”. Each person’s impact on the planet is a real metric that has a finite limit to the Earth’s capacity to restore and regenerate the natural environment. Humans are challenged to relearn what it means to live in sync in a right relationship with the Earth, thus enters—“The Regenerative Imperative”.
The goal of a truly sustainable built environment is restoration or regeneration—a “living building” approach. This implies a living or whole-systems approach to development which looks at the human and non-human ecology of the built environment. Consider that Earth, its ecosystems, biology and plants are all essential parts of a tightly integrated living system. In taking a whole-systems approach, a more expansive notion of the built environment is required. This is an essential way of thinking that views development as a way to improve the health of ecosystems, while providing homes, infrastructure, places to work and public places.
Built-environment defined: The built environment generally refers to the human made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging from the large-scale civic surroundings to the personal places” that includes urban and rural elements. Built environments can be designed to produce more energy and resources than they consume “net-positive”, and to transform and filter waste into health giving resources.
The built environment delivers economic, social and cultural benefits and generally provides a suitable environment for people to reside and work. The built environment also has wide ranging negative environmental impacts, including impacts associated with air quality, water and energy consumption, transport accessibility, materials use and management of waste.
Regenerative, restorative and cradle-to-cradle development aim for net-positive ecological and environmental outcomes. The key differences between the three concepts lie in the role of humans. Restorative and cradle-to-cradle strategies seek to improve ecosystem health through active human management, while regenerative strategies wisely seek to repair the capacity of ecosystems to efficiently auto-function at optimum levels without ongoing human intervention. All three concepts touch on the importance of understanding ecology and mimicking (“biomimicry“) it where appropriate to design a built environment that has positive environmental impact.
Eco-efficiency differs fundamentally from the above three concepts because it works within the existing business-as-usual paradigms for designing and producing products and buildings. The ultimate goal of eco-efficiency is neutral environmental impact at best, rather than an actively positive one.
Regenerative development definition [or Living Building Design]: Regenerative development acknowledges humans, as well as their developments, social structures and cultural concerns, as an inherent and indivisible part of ecosystems. It sees human development as a means to create optimum health in ecosystems. Understanding the unique and diverse human and non-human elements of each place is a crucial part of regenerative development. Regenerative development is grounded in a deep understanding of our relationships that have an integral and interdependent nature with living systems.
Whole system integrated planning, design and development are strategic to regenerative development. Each element is a part of the whole. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. The essence of the integrated approach is to coordinate planning and management activities to reconcile conflicting priorities and maximize the synergy between complementary aspects of the built environment such as, buildings, transport, urban design, and infrastructure.
The Regenerative Development solution includes a sponsorship program to develop several demonstration models to inspire regenerative development. There will be international visibility promoted through newspapers and magazines focused on business, culture, farming, health, sustainability, technology, architecture, construction, infrastructure, and energy. Many major sponsors are partnering on this solution (i.e., Microsoft, Panasonic, The International Living Futures Institute, etc.) that will assure its success and ultimate impact.
Why it should be recognized:
There is great hope for mankind through application of “regenerative design and development”. Regeneration is community/regionally-focused, yet globally scalable. Each project is a model for inspiration for an entire city, county and continent. The number of visionaries and practitioners are growing into a catalyst for worldwide transformation.
All over the World, regenerative developments are experiencing amazing results in the reversal of ecological damage bringing back biodiversity. This development strategy is an economic force for healthy sustainable livelihoods. Success measured on The Regenerative Index describes an ideal regenerated state, such as Full Employment (100% employment) compared to current levels of local employment, and for health, energy, food, etc. Regenerative design and development, as a global standard, could have the greatest impact on the health of Earth and its population.
Regenerative development is a part of an integrated strategy dealing with key social, economic, environmental, policy and cultural issues. Each region is becoming resilient and sustainable. It is healthy, bold, visionary and tangible, focused on well-defined needs of critical importance. The world-class partners assure international visibility. Builders and developers are looking for direction and leadership in what to develop for the future. The vision is backed up by a solid plan, with the resources, and the capability to rapidly move the solution forward.