Regenerative and Sustainable Design:

What’s the Difference?

Is sustainable design enough nowadays, is it a part of the solution? Or a part of the main misconception problem?

While a Sustainable Design seeks to reduce negative impacts of the environment, and the health and safety of building occupants, thereby improving building performance. The basic objectives of sustainability are to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, minimise waste, and create healthy, productive environments. Its main approach is to eliminate and reduce potential negative impacts in the future of society and the environment.

On the other hand a Regenerative Design has a systemic approach, in other words is a process-oriented whole systems approach to design

Algae at Costa Brava in Catalunya.

The term “regenerative” describes processes that restore, renew or revitalise their own sources of energy and materials (ecosystems). Regenerative design uses whole systems thinking to create resilient and equitable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature.

Designers use systems thinking, applied permaculture design principles, and community development processes to design human and ecological systems. The development of regenerative design has been influenced by approaches found in biomimicry, biophilic design, ecological economics, circular economics. As well as social movements such as permaculture, transition and the new economy. Regenerative Design can also refer to the process of designing systems such as restorative justice, rewilding and regenerative agriculture.

Therefore, any technical, social and perceptual innovation can be achieved by applying a Regenerative Design approach, because it is more integral and responds to our nowadays needs which not only look for eliminating and reducing negative impacts, but for restoring all existing damages too.

person in black jacket sitting near lake
Regenerative Tourism at Millpu’s Natural Pools in Ayacucho Peru. Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

A new generation of designers are applying ecologically inspired design to fashion and beauty, agriculture, architecture, community planning, cities, enterprises, economics and ecosystem regeneration. They use the resilient models observed in systems ecology in their design process and recognise that ecosystems are resilient largely because they operate enclosed loop systems. Great examples are: The Principles of Bio design, Biomimicry and Circular Economy Principles. Using this model regenerative design seeks feedback at every stage of the design process. Feedback loops are an integral to regenerative systems.

Do you want some examples of Regenerative Design? Here are some applied into different sectors:

Calguerxo, an example of a Regenerative Home Renovation Project.

Patagonia, an example of a Regenerative Casual Sportswear Fashion Brand.

Conscious Travel, a great example of Regenerative Tourism Consultancy.

vation, a result of a  co-creation project where designers propose projects with food scraps using artisanal techniques and digital fabrication. They collaborate with agents from Poblenou’s neighbourhood in Barcelona to promote a local circular economy ecosystem.

Biodegradable Coat made with Organic Waste and Bioplastics at Remix El Barrio 2020.

So, which other regenerative brands, initiatives or projects do you know?

References

Authors:

  • Carol Sanford, author of The Regenerative Business and director of Carol Sanford Institute.
  • World Economic Forum: Regenerative business: a roadmap for rapid change. 

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