“In the built environment, the trajectory has gone from
environmentalism (recycling, etc.) to green building for a more
sustainable footprint, to adaptable and resilient,” Meng said.
“Regenerative recognizes co-evolution with the environment;
being agents for evolution within the natural world we live in—
buildings, habitat and people.”
The Regenesis website states: “Sustainability practitioners
must commit themselves to discovering—and telling their
clients—the hard truth: There is no human resilience without
ecological resilience, no sustainability without a living planet,
and no planetary change without novel local approaches.”
Regenerative design involves a robust thought process.
Because buildings are static, it posits that a green building
must operate efficiently with an objective beyond lowering
costs. A tough regenerative concept to grasp is the importance
of defining “the system” that drives how a building’s design is
considered. That system is often a reflection of a community’s
core value or needs. How a building fits into that requires ques-
tions to be asked, such as how a building supports a watershed,
survives extreme weather events and brings economic value.
“We can’t assume things we construct will last forever, but
we can think through their adaptions over time,” Meng said.
Rebecca Mirsky, associate professor for the Construction
Management program, Boise State University in Idaho, said
regenerative design faces a long climb to common practice.
Its design principals are now taught in master’s programs. She
also sees some local regional governments and school districts
investigating this design approach.
“They are looking at a building’s place within a bigger com-
munity context, helping define the system,” she said. “It can be
at a micro or macro scale.”
Sandpebble, Southampton, N. Y., is a 35-year-old construc-
tion project management firm exploring regenerative design.
“The transformation is a mental one,” said Victor Canseco,
LEED AP BD + C, company principal. “The end is no longer a
building completed as designed. Now we define the system in
which it resides. That system may be found in learning how the
project fits into the community’s goals. What must the build-
ing accomplish to fit those aspirations; how will it function to
meet the needs of all the stakeholders, including those that will
Once the system is defined, regenerative objectives can form
“boundaries” that help direct building goals for contractors.
“A boundary might be how the building is set to function in a
high-performance way,” Mirsky said. “Maybe it’s the building’s
health impacts on its inhabitants.”
A contractor’s contribution to a regenerative design reveals
itself based on that company’s background and talent.
“Resiliency is the popular new term,” Mirsky said. “Climate
change has driven this discussion. If a catastrophic weather
event takes down the power, you need backup, alternative
means of power. Here is a role the electrical contractor [EC]
directly plugs into as communities grapple with credible disaster planning. Maybe you are trained in distributed energy and
local power generation. Here you help buildings and their
occupants become self-sufficient using backup green power,
microgrids or other strategies within a regenerative project.”
Barn raising: the integrative process
Regenerative design leaves no stone unturned. Mirsky
described it as a barn raising, where the town comes together
because they have a stake in it.
“The integrative approach brings everyone into the building process as it affects them and their community,” she said.
Regenesis recognizes business author Carol Sandford’s five
“Keeping in mind that the Earth always wins, Earth systems
are the first stakeholder,” Canseco said. “You must consider how
your project will support them. Other stakeholders include the
users [patrons of the building]; the staff; the community; and
the investors [taxpayers, boards/volunteers, stockholders].”
Canseco takes Regenesis regenerative design training classes.
“It’s all about the exchange between the five,” he said. “To
achieve a regenerative design, the construction team needs to
understand how each impacts the other. Adding in community
engagement applies ‘upstream’ thinking, and it will be different
based on each community. Everyone has an opinion, and it all
counts. That’s a shift. I’m educated as a mechanical engineer.
I was never taught that my discipline is really interconnected
with so many others.”
Reed helped found the Integrative Design Collaborative, a
consortium of coaches/program managers helping project teams
achieve higher levels of environmentally responsible design.
“We have a long way to go as integrative design is still
largely lip service,” Reed said. “Statistically, its true practice
in the construction community is around 2–3 percent. The
REGENERATION IS A CHALLENGING NEW MINDSET