Buildings that give back

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By Damian Shepherd

There’s a new climate push in the building industry: regenerative architecture.

The sector has been trying for years to cut its sizeable carbon footprint, which was responsible for 38% of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gases in 2019. But developers need to go beyond preventing pollution if they want to help avoid catastrophic climate change, according to Sarah Ichioka and Michael Pawlyn, co-authors of a new book titled Flourish: Design Paradigms for Our Planetary Emergency.

They argue that buildings should be designed in a regenerative way — a process that mimics nature by restoring its own materials and sources of energy. It goes further than sustainable design, which seeks to reduce harm to the environment and use only essential materials.

“More than half of humanity’s total historic greenhouse-gas emissions have occurred since the concept of ‘sustainability’ entered the mainstream,” Ichioka and Pawlyn write. “It is now time to embrace a new regenerative approach to design and development.”

Their book highlights examples of regenerative design from China to Japan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Projects are still rare, but they’re a glimpse of what the future of rural and urban architecture could be.