Rapid urbanization as a result of greater economic production and population expansion has resulted in the construction of structures that have no relationship with their surroundings or people. The building and construction sector is regarded as one of the most significant contributors to many of the problems confronting our society today. Material and non-material requirements are met in a centralized way as a result of mass and industrialized growth. Pressing environmental challenges such as deforestation, biodiversity extinction, organic matter loss due to soil erosion, and global warming are putting further strain on the planet’s ecosystem health and dependency on resource utilization. As a result, we must rethink our consumption patterns, food networks, architecture, design techniques, and procedures. In this sense, we must call into question the long-held notion of sustainability.

Regenerative Sustainable Design - Sheet1
Illustration showcasing Regeneration_©Miller 2017

Our present approach to and perception of sustainability is simply failing since it is based on a mechanical viewpoint. This technique seeks to reduce or alleviate the negative environmental consequences of development, but can we have a sustainable world if the major goal of carbon neutrality is green and sustainable buildings? We need to ask ourselves questions like, “What are we sustaining?” How can we ensure a truly sustainable future?

Regenerative Sustainable Design - Sheet2
Weak Sustainability and Strong Sustainability _©https://sustain-blog.com/2020/09/03/weak-sustainability-vs-strong-sustainability-which-is-better/

This mechanistic worldview is based on the concepts and belief systems that the world is split into a series of components that behave like mechanical systems. Focuses on scientific approaches to ideas such as reductionism, dualism, determinism, and anthropocentrism. The built environment is viewed as the endpoint of the design process. Many disciplines of study have advocated for a new strategy since the environmental and sociological aspects that support our civilization may be fading; in other words, our existing approach to sustainability is failing. It is suggested that regenerative design is a technique that can encourage a different approach to development. The procedures or actions that contribute to an ecological viewpoint and a building environment that functions by nature are referred to as regenerative design.

The “development of regenerative architecture and design as a unique field” began in 1994, with the publication of John Tillman Lyle’s book “Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development.” The book is the first to define the ideas and methodologies of regenerative design. 

“Where nature evolved an ever-varying, endlessly complex network of unique places adapted to local conditions,” Lyle wrote, “…humans have designed readily manageable uniformity (Lyle, 1994).” Which results in reasonably simple patterns as well as typologies that may be easily replicated elsewhere. The substitution of nature’s continuous recycling and cycling of energy and materials “central to the earth’s operating system,” in his opinion—with unidirectional flows from source to sink was critical. “Eventually a one-way system destroys the landscapes on which it depends,” Lyle noted. As a result, Lyle described the regenerative design as the “replacement of linear systems of throughput flows” with “cyclical flows at sources, consumption centers, and sinks. 

Regenerative Sustainable Design - Sheet3
Comparison of the Flow pattern in Degenerative and Regenerative Systems _©John Lyle (1944)

Regenerative design is an emerging discipline of sustainable architecture that focuses on building interrelationships between diverse entities, design processes, and the responsibilities of various stakeholders at numerous levels. It broadens and utilizes knowledge on ecosystem services and living habitats. It is based on the core concepts of living systems thinking to create a constructed environment in which humans and nature may co-evolve and mutually prosper. The regenerative design takes into account not only the architecture but also the people, culture, and other activities involved. According to linked literature, the function of regenerative design requires a connection and linkage between the place’s historical, cultural, ecological, and economic patterns, as well as a joint vision for a better future. Despite a substantial trend toward regenerative techniques, it is vital to assess their necessity.

According to linked literature, the function of regenerative design requires a connection and linkage between the place’s historical, cultural, ecological, and economic patterns, as well as a joint vision for a better future. In-depth research and understanding of regeneration processes in architecture have the potential to help urban communities construct resilient projects.

To further comprehend the concept of regeneration, distinguish between sustainable,” restorative,’ and, finally,’ regenerative design.’

  1. Green Design – A fundamental word referring to a design route of advancement, i.e., quality improvement with the overall purpose of not harming.
  2. Green Design – Sustainable Design, to achieve a situation in which the planet’s creatures and ecosystems can be sustained throughout time.
  3. Restorative Design – The approach views design in terms of restoring the potential of local surroundings to a stable condition of an organization by itself via design and building operations.
  4. Regenerative Design – This is a design paradigm in which individuals engage in and reflect on the co-evolution of the entire environment in which they inhabit. The only realm in which we can reasonably relate is the place — neighborhood, watershed, and bioregion.
Regenerative Sustainable Design - Sheet4
Trajectory of Environmentally Responsible Design _©Bill Reed (2007)

Currently, the two prominent perspectives in the literature are a mechanical worldview and an ecological perspective. Scientific and regenerative sustainability perspectives arose from two opposed worldviews: mechanistic and ecological. A key, sometimes undetected restriction for architects attempting to integrate or transition between the two sustainability paradigms is a lack of understanding of the distinctions and potential repercussions.

During this age, the scientific revolution offered contemporary metaphors that replaced the ancient notion of an organic, breathing, and the philosophical environment with comparing the universe to a machine (thus the term “mechanistic”). This worldview holds that the cosmos and all of its material constituents, including living species, act as mechanical systems guided by core principles. As a result, basic concepts such as determinism, anthropocentrism, dualism, and reductionism emerge.

A new worldview also referred to as ecological, has arisen as a result of advanced discoveries and difficulties. It is suggested that ecological theory contributes to current understanding by offering a new viewpoint that illuminates diverse sorts of knowledge, rather than challenging or discrediting the mechanistic paradigm.

Similarly, the phrase “ecosystem” depicts the cosmos as a living entity or system of activities, notably an ecology, in the same way, that the term “machine” depicts the basic concept of the mechanistic worldview. The first notion to comprehend is the need of viewing the cosmos as a mutually dependent and engaged living ecosystem in which humanity is fundamentally a part of nature and active players in co-evolution and co-creation processes. One of the most fundamental ecological lessons is that people are one of many actors in the system of co-evolution with nature that leads to the construction of the environment. A collection of values compatible with the formation and maintenance of healthy, symbiotic interdependent relationships, as well as the acceptance of change as a necessary state of existence, may be drawn from the three notions of wholeness, relationship, and transition.

A paradigm of Technological Sustainability

Over the last two decades, green building has established the criteria and impacted policy for what constitutes a healthy built environment, based on building performance analysis done under the “rules” specified by the technical sustainability paradigm. The development and maintenance of an ideal, triple-bottom-line steady-state are referred to as “sustainability.”

A paradigm of Regenerative Sustainability

According to this idea, sustainability is defined as a biological system’s ability to maintain its key position and credibility in a constantly altering environment while maintaining a symbiotic connection with the larger system(s) of which it is a part. Sustainability is a notion that develops from the collaboration of economic, social, and environmental solutions. It refers to “the re-connection of human goals and actions with the evolution of natural surroundings, i.e., co-evolution” in theory.

Regenerative Sustainable Design - Sheet5
Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden and Visitor Centre is a prime example of regenerative design. Courtesy Perkins+Will / _©Nic Lehoux

Regeneration does not include keeping what is or restoring everything to its former state. Instead, it refers to the development of processes and surroundings that will lead to better levels of well-being and resilience, so positively contributing to the earth’s living environmental systems. The built environment is an important aspect of city life. Infrastructure development puts a strain on available resources, ecological processes, and waste production as the world’s population grows. A new strategy to changing cities into living urban cities might provide several benefits to inhabitants, and smart material loops can make a circular economy a viable option for regenerative urban life. Urban regeneration is critical because, as designers, architects, and planners, we must guarantee that the cities, communities, and structures we create have a symbiotic connection with their surroundings to live a truly sustainable existence.

It goes beyond existing sustainability standards since regenerative projects may generate energy while sharing the excess with neighboring communities and catch and treat all of their water and trash. Furthermore, regenerative buildings promote deep, complex integration of all entities involved, including social and cultural problems like human comfort, universal access, social equality, and health.

Regenerative Sustainable Design - Sheet6
Vertical Forest in Milan by Studio Boeri _©Katie Nanton

Buildings must now establish a regenerative route that allows for cooperation among diverse stakeholders as well as mutual participation at various phases of system operations. This shift in thinking might pave the way for developing and renovating in a regenerative manner to create high-quality, low-energy-consumption, and resilient buildings. The main objective would be to investigate how to present operations that may be transformed into circular holistic models for designing egalitarian and resilient structures and programs.


- A young architect and a firm believer in the potential of architecture, sustainability, research, and design thinking to significantly improve society and have a positive influence on the environment. A highly efficient and enthusiastic individual who is inspired by the meaning of architecture and its innovative effectiveness to translate thinking approaches into the built environment.