regenerative architecture

Comments on Regenerates, the Sustainability Week & Green Building Conference 2015 at CSIR (24-25 June)

Sustainable design and regenerative architecture goes far beyond the concept of green building, but for the most part, that is where the mind goes when the subject arises. The dialogue surrounding climate change, global warming and the need for conservation is foremost on our minds, although what it all means versus what can be done about it seems to be a somewhat more elusive issue. We are aware of things that should be done to reduce harm, but sometimes the reason for doing these things gets lost in the act itself – we recycle plastic water bottles, but why can’t we just use reusable containers? Corporations purchase carbon ‘offsets’ to reduce their footprint, but have difficulty adopting processes that would eliminate that need. And so it goes.

Sustainable design is impossible without regenerative architecture, and the same could be said of the human race: If humans are not nature, and nature is not human, the two will always run parallel. No matter how efficiently they coexist, they will never be ‘sustainable’ unless they begin to operate as one system. It is continually necessary to regenerate ourselves with respect to the evolutionary process, because if we remain static, we die.

It all starts with a necessary mind shift in both your personal and public life: Will you make the effort to change your habits? If the answer is yes, then the future is assured. Instead of being overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation, you must see yourself as the centre and act from there. Steady changes will eventually result in economic sensibility. Some changes will be more costly, and others will save either in the short or long term, but we must be constantly reminded that ‘efficiency’ is not the endgame.

OLIVEHILL and Regenerative Architecture

In defining OLIVEHILL Architects’ role in affecting regeneration, we ask ourselves: what value can we add? The answer lies in a better understanding of the lifecycles of building materials, as through this we are afforded a more responsible and economical approach to design. Green building and sustainable design could and should include climate sensitive building materials as well as energy saving lighting fixtures and appliances – features that bring value to your life and to your pocket, with the added bonus that they may well provide even greater comfort. What a concept! Ultimately, we all do what we can do within the scope of current technology and resources, but as architects, it is about adding value to the lives of our clients and to the larger community.

The ideal of resilient and healthy cities relies on ethics in architecture – and architects have a responsibility to design for people and for communities, not just for shelter. We need to shift our thinking to become regenerative. But how do we accomplish this and how do we, as home owners or business owners, fit into this picture? Most of us would like to make a change but are not in a position to invent new and impactful technologies. Our focus needs to shift and be more about healing and less about ‘improving’. Cities are power hungry beasts, using extensive natural resources just to be able to function properly. We use water, timber and soil for building materials, but may forget that the land itself is just as important. Understanding the value of our resources helps us to handle them with greater care and respect at the individual level. By strengthening our core values, these sensibilities radiate outwards. As architects, we must overcome the instinct to build things the way they have always been built. We must acknowledge the disaster we have created and take responsibility for shaping a better future.

OLIVEHILL Architects are committed to facilitating regenerative architecture in the move towards a better future. Though we are all only individuals, it is important for us to recognize our role in the bigger picture and realize that together, we can make a difference. And it’s not just about us as architects – it is about enabling our clients to add value to their own lives and to the larger community. As a community, we can absolutely influence our social environment. Little by little, we will arrive at a brighter future and know with good conscience that we have left behind a better world for our children.

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