We see regenerative design as a system goal. That goal is for humans and the living world is to survive, thrive and co-evolve.
- Human and the living world– explicitly seeing humans and the rest of the living world interlinked.
- Survive – shifting the dial from system life-destroying to life-enabling.
- Thrive – going beyond staying alive to life that is flourishing.
- Co-evolve – seeing this human-living world evolving together in a way that is emergent.
Setting regenerative design as a system goal
Our mission at the Lab is to translate the theory of regenerative design into practice in the built environment sector. Taking as a starting point the work of Brown et al (2018) and Mang and Reed (2020), we have found through our work in the Regenerative Design Lab that regenerative design is more easily explained through the language of systems goals.
In the built-environment context, the ‘system’ we are talking about is everything to do with how we design, build, live in and repurpose our buildings infrastructure:
- It is the things we build;
- It is how we source our building materials; how these relate to the living environment from which they are drawn;
- It is how we structure our supply chains; how these interact with the places and communities in which we operate;
- It the feedback we gather on how processes are going and how we adjust course;
- It is the rules and incentives that we set for how we design, operate and construct our built environment;
- It is the capacity of industry to self-organise and innovate – to create new rules and ways of operating in response to new information;
- It is the ultimate goal or purpose of the system – be that economic growth or maximising share-holder profit;
- And, ultimately it is the philosophy or paradigm which sets the whole mindset within which the industry works.
As systems thinker Donella Meadows describes, changing the goals of a system is one of the most effective leverage points for change in that system (Meadows, 2008).
Rather than economic growth or maximising share-holder value, regenerative design sets a different goal for our built environment system. It is that as a result of our activities, that life on Earth – for humans included – should be enhanced.
*Acknowledgements and references
The theory we develop in the Constructivist Regenerative Design Lab emerges through conversations between lab members and facilitators during and around the Lab programmes. Where one or people’s work has made a significant contribution to a particular conclusion, then we will try to acknowledge it.
In this case, the definition of this goal for regenerative design has been strongly influenced by Oliver and James Norman’s work researching and writing ‘The Regenerative Structural Engineer’.
- Brown, M., Haselsteiner, E., Apró, D., Kopeva, D., Luca, E., Pulkkinen, K., Vula Rizvanolli, B., (Eds.), (2018). Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative. COST Action CA16114 RESTORE, Working Group One Report: Restorative Sustainability.
- Mang, P., Reed, B., 2020. Regenerative Design and Development, in: Sustainable Built Environments. pp. 115–141.
- Meadows, D., 2008. Thinking in Systems. Chelsea Green Publishing.