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Regenerative Architecture

What is Regenerative Architecture?

Discover how regenerative architecture creates spaces improving environmental conditions and enhancing people’s mental well-being

The world of architecture is called upon to respond to climate emergency, considering that 40% of global carbon emissions comes from the built environment. In response to this challenge, sustainable architecture comes into play, but often, it stops only at the concept of ‘sustaining.’ Let’s explore now a more ambitious and forward-thinking approach: ‘regenerative architecture.’

To follow this type of architecture, managing environmental resources and creating spaces that support users’ well-being, it is necessary to use a tool for energy analysis. In this regard, at the end of the article, you can find a video showing how to best use these tools.

Regenerative design and city conception

Regenerative design and city concepts

Regenerative Architecture: Restoring Harmony Between Built Environment and Nature

Regenerative architecture, inspired by known regeneration principles in biology, represents a revolutionary approach in the field of sustainable building. These principles, originally associated with the ability to renew tissues and ecosystems in living organisms, are adopted to shape how we design, build and live in built environments.

Biological Foundations of Regeneration

Biology teaches us that regeneration is the renew, restore, or growing damaged tissues processes in organisms. This concept, applied in fields such as medicine and ecology, is now at the core of regenerative architecture. In other words, it’s about adopting a biological mentality in designing the spaces we live in.

Natural World Role

What sets regenerative architecture apart is its deep involvement with the natural world. It’s not just about designing buildings that respect the surrounding environment but actively integrating natural elements into the architecture itself. Trees, plants, watercourses and other natural features become integral parts of the design process, contributing to creating harmonious and sustainable spaces.

Forward-Thinking Approach

The essence of regenerative architecture lies in a forward-thinking approach. It’s not just about solving immediate problems but understanding and anticipating long-term dynamics between the built environment and nature. This requires designing beyond the mere functionality of buildings, considering how they can contribute to restoring and maintaining natural balances.

Restoration of Environmental Processes

Regenerative architecture goes beyond passive coexistence with the environment. Rather, it actively aims to restore natural environmental processes. This might include creating green spaces that promote biodiversity, sustainable water management, and adopting architectural solutions that reflect and support natural cycles.

Social and Economic Implications

This approach doesn’t only concern the environment. It also holds a significant social and economic implications. Regenerative architecture can contribute to creating communities more connected with nature. Improving the quality of life and simultaneously promoting a sustainable economy through innovative and environmentally respectful solutions.

Regenerative Design

The comparison between regenerative design and sustainable design reveals a crucial nuance in contemporary architectural design. While both aim to reduce the environmental impact of buildings, regenerative design stands out for its bold aspiration to surpass the limits of mere sustainability.

Regenerative design represents an innovative design methodology that aims at reactivating and renewing an environment by creating synergies between social needs and respect for the natural environment. This approach evolves from the principles of sustainable development, incorporating aspects such as environmental responsibility, social justice, and economic efficiency.

The theoretical foundations of this practice focus on the community level, emphasizing energy generation and recycling of materials through natural processes. John T. Lyle suggested twelve key strategies for achieving regenerative projects, including using nature as a model and context, aggregation rather than isolation, achieving an optimal balance, harmonizing technology with needs and sustainable management of resources.

These principles have become the basis for developing a methodological framework that includes parameters for evaluating energy performance, regulations (such as EPBD and EMAS), certification standards (such as LEED, LCA, ICMQ), and bioclimatic design concepts.

The long-term goal is to provide design guidelines for the harmonious coevolution of systems in urban energy retrofit interventions. This translates into improvements in technological feasibility, performance, sustainability and quality, aiming for the recovery of urban identity and social inclusion-accessibility promotion.

A critical aspect of applying regenerative design is the economic feasibility challenge and uncertainty about the buildings’ future performance. Despite numerous urban scale examples, implementation at the individual buildings level remains complex, especially in terms of self-sufficiency.

This approach contributes to social improvement through users’ participatory involvement, emphasizing the needs-aspirations and design outcomes relationship therefore reinforcing a sense of belonging and identity.

In summary, regenerative design requires a change in perspective, shifting the focus from objects to relationships ensuring the stability of biodiversity based ecosystems and their network complexity. In this context, buildings become catalysts for positive change, functioning as integrated living systems in their habitat hence promoting advantageous interactions between the living world, humans and the built environment.

Example of regenerative design ACCA headquarters software

Example of regenerative design ACCA headquarters software

Limiting vs. Reintegrating

Sustainable design focuses on responsible resources, seeking to limit their use and minimize their environmental impact. On the other hand, regenerative design, as mentioned, goes beyond, aspiring to actively reintegrate resources into the built environment. This aspiration represents a fundamental paradigm shift: not just limiting damage but actively contributing to environmental regeneration.

Architecture as an Extension of Place

In regenerative design, architecture ceases to be just an isolated structure and becomes an extension of the place it occupies. This implies a profound interaction with the specific site, considering not only the functional aspect of buildings. But also their relationship with the topography, flora, fauna and surrounding ecosystem. This involves creating ecological corridors, preserving natural habitats, or promoting green spaces that act as biodiversity sanctuaries. Architecture thus becomes a landscape organic element.

Regenerative architecture and design

Regenerative architecture and design

Systemic Thinking in Architecture

Contemporary architecture is increasingly embracing systemic thinking as a fundamental pillar in designing regenerative environments. This paradigm, known as systemic thinking, radically transforms the perception of buildings. Conceiving them not as isolated entities but as interconnected nodes in a vast network of social, environmental and business relationships. Let’s see how systemic thinking translates into architecture, emphasizing the need for a holistic and integrated vision.

By integrating microclimate and soil dynamics into design, architects aim to create buildings that not only adapt to the surrounding environment but also actively contribute to its balance. This concept of a building as part of a natural system represents a step forward from traditional design. Systemic thinking requires a deep understanding of how a building interacts with the local microclimate. The form, orientation and buildings’ materials must be carefully studied to optimize natural resources use, such as sunlight and ventilation. This synergistic interaction not only improves the building’s energy efficiency but also contributes by creating a healthy and sustainable microenvironment.

In addition to considering the direct environmental impact of a building, it takes into account social and possibly the business connections it generates. This integrated perspective helps create buildings that are not only harmoniously fit into their physical context but also into the broader social and economic context. In systemic thinking sense, the architect assumes a systems thinker role, considering multiple variables and relationships involved in building design. This evolution of the professional role requires multidisciplinary skills and closer collaboration with professionals from related fields, such as environmental engineers and landscape architects.

The Need for Regenerative Architecture

The concept of regenerative architecture, emerging in response to environmental challenges, represents a design typology that operates as a closed-loop system. From this perspective, buildings become self-sufficient in eliminating waste, gathering or utilizing resources as well as self-powering. While nature serves as the archetype for regenerative design, modern technology offers opportunities for its full implementation.

Passive design, fundamental in regenerative architecture, finds examples in the past, such as ancient buildings in the American Southwest. These demonstrate the possibility of ensuring comfort without HVAC use, employing passive design techniques like maximum southern exposure and strategic window placement for natural ventilation.

For a deeper connection with the environment, regenerative architecture integrates native flora both inside and outside buildings. Indigenous plants, adapted to the local climate, offer advantages such as survival without additional water and the promotion of native species presence, contributing to ecosystem balance. The use of native plants, even on rooftops as in green roofs, reduces CO2 levels and mitigates the “heat island” effect in urban areas.

Regenerative architecture looks to new technologies to ensure self-sustainability. It shapes up as a cutting-edge approach in designing living spaces. Its implementation not only meets contemporary sustainability needs but also charts a path towards buildings that, much like nature itself, actively participate in the regenerative cycle of the environment.

The necessity for regenerative architecture emphasizes the importance of collective commitment. Architects, urban planners and society as a whole must collaborate to create built environments. One that not only meet current needs but also positively contribute to our planet’s health and future generations.

Which Tool to Use for Regenerative Architecture

You can watch a BIM energy software video presentation here: