Is ‘sustainability’ good enough?
“How did we get here?” is a common question asked when we talk about today’s environment. And although due to human population, our natural landscape would be altered regardless, the economy is why we’re here so badly and so quickly.
Throughout human history, civilisation has destroyed its natural environment. Beginning in the 18th century, due to population growth and high demands in housings, the Industrial Revolution caused vast damage to the natural environment and polluted the air, which created an unhealthy environment to live in from there on out. It didn’t get any better.
So what about this ‘sustainability’ idea that’s so popular today?
Sustainability is about reducing negative human impact on the planet, however, the natural environment has been harmed for far too long; therefore, merely reducing the impact is not good enough.
It is crucial to understand that sustainability no longer works, therefore, we need to search for what goes beyond sustainability. This is called regenerative design. Regenerative design is a whole-system approach to design and is the key to a positive future. The term “regenerative” describes processes that restore, renew and revitalize the natural environment.
Regenerative design goes a step further than sustainable design: understanding the place and its unique patterns, designing for harmony within place and co-evolution. Therefore, buildings should serve as one of the catalysts of positive change. This sounds like a great theory but how can we put it into practice? For instance, the use of ‘biophilia’, linking the built environment with nature to improve occupants’ health and the living environment. Plants on buildings are not only for aesthetic but it is a way of co-existing with nature. Once this theory is well understood and applied, the health of our ecosystem will improve and the architecture can now give back more than it consumes. By doing this we are existing positively; this is called regeneration.
If this generation wants to leave a positive legacy, changes need to be made today.
When it comes to buildings, this is what we recommend starting with and below are some principles of regenerative architecture by Jacob Alexander Littman in his thesis ‘Regenerative Architecture: A Pathway Beyond Sustainability’.
- Whole system design integration: all systems and entities are accounted for and incorporated into the system design.
- Integration into the landscape: analysis and understanding of the landscape and its natural elements.
- Intelligent construction: the construction is designed to maximise material efficiency and potential.
- Bold ecology: ecology production provides positive net output.
- Community: scale is irrelevant and all members of the community are participants in and influencers of design.
- Experience of place: the image of the place formulates a positive experience.
- Culture: the social history is presented in the design, geological history is complemented and preserved, the quality of life for all cultures is enhanced by the design and intervention.
Jacob Alexander Littman states that “The architecture, in its new definition, is producing a surplus of food, more clean water than it consumes, more energy than it consumes, provides richer diversity than was before the structure became part of the system.”
Here are a few things you can do right now to make a small change:
- It is time to take action, but slowly and not in a rush, because we must use nature as a model for our actions.
- Try growing your own food in your backyard, to eat healthier as part of self-care.
- Change your lifestyle to reduce the ecological footprint.
- Support local businesses/ companies that have the same ethics you have.
An ecologist John D. Liu sums up that, “Valuing Ecosystem Function higher than material things is the paradigm shift that determines whether we understand the meaning of our lives and survive or whether we remain ignorant and selfish and destroy our own habitat trying to gain more wealth or more power. If we reach this level of understanding, not only can everyone live on the Earth but the natural systems on Earth can reach their optimal ability to sustain life.”