In 2022, we plan to launch the Constructivist Regenerative Design Learning Lab. The Learning Lab will be a six month experimental programme for 15-20 individuals that aims to broaden and deepen understanding of regenerative design principles for the built environment sector. This initiative has been made possible through funding from the Royal Commission for the exhibition of 1851. While we firm up the details, this post provides an outline of how we intend the lab to work.
Everybody is talking about regenerative design
In his book ‘Designing Regenerative Cultures‘, Daniel Wahl defines ‘regenerative cultures’ as ones that enable a flourishing in planetary and human health. It is a philosophy rooted in systems thinking and recoupling activities with nature; a philosophy that seeks to move communities away from scarcity and competition towards abundance and collaboration.
The hundreds of construction industry organisations that have signed up to the various Declarations of Climate and Biodiversity Emergencies have committed themselves to ‘adopting more regenerative principles in practice’. There is a philosophical consensus about the vital importance of applying regenerative principles in the built environment; however, this has never been translated into practical action or wider awareness within the engineering and construction industry, a sector which is responsible for such a large proportion of global resource extraction and emissions. Bridging this gap between philosophy and practice feels like a natural extension of our existing conceptual design teaching here at Constructivist to develop a practicable approach to regenerative design for engineering and construction professionals.
Designers, the people they design for, the context within which their designs are built and the people that use them are a complex system. At present, the net outcome of that system is a way of living that is beyond the sustainable limits of our ecosystem, in other words the outcome is destructive. The question is how can conceptual designers play a role that contributes to the outcome of that system being regenerative – rather than destructive?
From systems theory, we know that we can’t predict and control complex systems, rather we must observe, experiment, measure and learn. Consequently, learning how to design more regeneratively necessitates an action-learning approach. Only by experimenting with different aspects of regenerative conceptual design can we start to understand how it works, the factors that enable it and the factors that prevent it from emerging.
A cross between experimenting and learning
The Learning Lab will be a 6-month programme of activities in which 15 to 20 practising professionals can come together to experiment with and evaluate tools for regenerative design. The programme will be action-learning focused: participants are expected to apply principles of regenerative practice in their work and observe the impacts of these practices on the system from their perspectives.
The activities will be a mixture of in-person face-to-face events and online webinars.
Re-establishing connection with nature
An essential part of this learning journey into regenerative is re-establishing a connection between designers and the ecosystems that they wish to regenerate. To facilitate this aspect of the learning lab, the programme is anchored around three two-day residential stays at Hazel Hill Wood, a 75 acre forest and centre for regenerative practice.
The opportunity to return several times to the same ecosystem provides tremendous opportunities for learning about ecosystems in general, how we work with them and how they work on us.
The Learning Lab will deliver outputs for individuals and the sector more widely. At the heart of the Lab are the individual journeys of the participants as they explore what regenerative design means for them personally, in their work and in the organisation. And from taking a cross-section of these journeys we can draw wider understanding about the application of regenerative design in our sector.
Benefits for individuals
We intend this programme to be both a developmental and transformative experience for participants. Through the course, individuals will develop their understanding of skills for regenerative design, and will be able to use this understanding to inform discussions about regenerative design in their organisations.
But more fundamentally, regenerative design is a process that starts from a very different relationship between the individual and the ecosystem that they are designing in. The study of our connection to and separation from nature can lead to profound discoveries about how we live and what we value. It can be a journey that releases us from feeling like we are bound in a destructive economic system and shows us the rich and thriving world that we could be designing and living in ourselves.
Benefits for organisations
The commitment to regenerative design that many organisations have made represents a fundamental shift in how they approach projects. How each organisation achieves that shift is up for grabs. The experimental nature of this course enables staff from your organisations to explore how regenerative design could work in practice for your organisation.
The outputs and benefits of the learning lab are intended to be shared with and for the benefit of the wider engineering and construction sector. Supporting the learning lab, either by sending staff on the course or by sponsorship, is an opportunity for organisations to demonstrate and to put into action their commitment to regenerative design.
Benefits for engineering and construction
The overall aim of the Regenerative Design Learning Lab is to broaden and deepen understanding of regenerative design principles in the built environment sector. We plan to share the outputs from the learning lab with the Joint Board of Moderators that accredit university courses in our sector. The outputs can also the basis for more experimentation and rapid development of training that will provide much-needed up-skilling in this sector.
- Early March – online kick-off meeting
- March – spring residential at Hazel Hill Wood: introductory principles
- April – two-hour online workshop
- May – two-hour online workshop
- June – summer residential at Hazel Hill Wood: deepening theory and connection
- July – two-hour online workshop
- September – two-hour online workshop
- October – autumn residential at Hazel Hill Wood: conclusions
Pricing and funding
We are currently finalising the pricing of the programme. You can expect:
- A full price rate for corporate participants
- A significantly discounted rate for people who are self-funding their attendance
- The opportunity for organisations to sponsor the lab in return for places on the programme
Register your interest
If you are interested in finding out more about the programme, then drop us an email, we’d love to hear from you.