SketchUp and Dezeen have released the second episode of the Climate Salon Podcast. In this episode, SketchUp's Hugh McEvoy joins the panel to share valuable insights and possible steps for creating projects that embrace regenerative design principles to improve the environment.
Regenerative design: building a better habitat
Trimble SketchUp and Dezeen partnered up to bring you the Climate Salon Podcast. In the second episode, Forging a Regenerative Future, podcast host Jennifer Hahn talks to industry experts Sebastion Cox, Rikke Juul Gram, and SketchUp Sustainability Lead Hugh McEvoy to share valuable insights for creating projects using regenerative design principles.
“Design and architecture can work in conjunction with nature to have a positive impact on the environment.”
Understanding the issue
Regenerative design is an emergent concept in a world increasingly focused on sustainability. While sustainability seeks to minimize damage, regeneration aims to go further by consciously adding value to the environment, improving the habitat for humans and the planet. The idea revolves around creating a more sustainable environment while fostering community and integration with the natural surroundings. Using existing resources and harmonizing human needs with the ecosystem can make a habitat better than if no intervention had occurred.
"Just balancing the books does not get us back to where we were. In that sense, I think of regenerative design as part of a focus on more active sustainability."
Regenerative design in practice
Sebastian Cox: restoring biodiversity through holistic furniture design
Sebastian Cox’s furniture business epitomizes regenerative design. He emphasizes the benefits of using wood from managed woodlands rather than relying on imported materials, which promotes biodiversity and habitat restoration. Cox's approach values imperfections in materials and embraces their uniqueness and the ecological benefits they offer. He urges a holistic connectedness between landscape, products, and human experiences, envisioning a future where landscapes yield the needed resources.
"The only difference between using imported industrial grown timber and timber grown in native woodlands is the tolerance to imperfection. Designs need to be built with the understanding that variation is to be welcomed.”
Rikke Juul Gram: climate-adapting cities through water management
Architect Rikke Juul Gram focuses on climate-adaptive cities by using nature's structures to create holistic solutions like integrating water management into urban frameworks. She emphasizes the value of water as a resource. By managing water and allowing natural systems to thrive as part of the urban fabric, excess water can be absorbed and used to support natural areas within cities. Gram advocates for maintaining urban space where biological systems can perform essential functions.
"The regenerative approach focuses on how we can add a growing value to support complex natural systems.”
Rikke Juul Gram
Hugh McEvoy: redefining aesthetics through systems thinking
Hugh McEvoy, SketchUp’s sustainability lead, highlights the importance of understanding a building’s systems rather than solely focusing on aesthetics within architecture and design. The traditional emphasis on form often overlooks environmental impact. A regenerative approach looks at the entire lifecycle of a building, designing it to operate more efficiently by considering factors such as energy consumption and environmental impact throughout the life of the building. Integrating beauty and function, McEvoy proposes a new aesthetic that values the holistic relationship between structure and nature.
"Historically, there's been a very strong emphasis on architectural aesthetics. There's nothing wrong with that as such, but what happens is that the impact gets neglected."
Hugh McEvoy, sustainability lead at SketchUp (left), and Jennifer Hahn, podcast host and Dezeen's design and environment editor (right)
The path to a regenerative future
Achieving a regenerative future requires collaboration, breaking free from conventional norms, and embracing the complexities of natural systems. AEC professionals must question traditional practices and prioritize long-term impacts over short-term gains.
Regenerative design requires us to break down barriers and embrace interdisciplinary collaboration. To understand our world's complex, interconnected systems, we must study natural ecosystems and develop strategies that work in harmony with nature.
Designers must also work closely across industries to build a more cohesive response to climate change. Cross-industry collaboration is essential, but it often happens around contractual boundaries, leading to potential limitations and less agility. A lack of communication and accountability between collaborators can result in a diluted aesthetic and decreased project performance.
"[Once AEC professionals] take more interest in ownership or get more experience in understanding how the whole system fits together, they're going to design buildings that perform better [and] preserve the design integrity of the building throughout its whole life."
Government support can also accelerate the adoption of regenerative design principles. Legislation should encourage sustainable practices and provide incentives to help make regenerative design the norm.
Regenerative design is not a task that any one person or discipline can accomplish. AEC professionals must join forces to create regenerative spaces that benefit people and the planet.
Regenerative design in the marketplace
Market forces are also vital in driving change. Fortunately, consumers are demanding more sustainable and regenerative products and services as they become more aware of their environmental impact.
As the market demand for regenerative design grows, so will the number of businesses willing to embrace these eco-friendly practices. Professionals across the industry recognize that regenerative design does not need to sacrifice aesthetics for sustainability. Designers and architects find that regenerative solutions can be both beautiful and functional. A unique and authentic beauty emerges by embracing the flaws in natural materials and incorporating them into design.
"Regenerative design asks 'what could we do to bring the community together and bring the natural environment around the structure together to do something that leads to a better outcome?' "
Built environment as a force for good
Regenerative design goes beyond sustainability to create spaces that improve the environment and enrich the lives of the people who inhabit them. To achieve a regenerative future, we must collaborate, break free from conventional norms, and embrace the complexity of natural systems. AEC professionals can be on the leading edge of a regenerative future by building environments that thrive in harmony with nature and humanity.
You can check out the full podcast here.
Explore SketchUp’s ever-expanding capabilities for embracing regenerative practices, including its seamless integration with Sefaira for energy-efficient building design. Sign up for a free trial, or check out our subscription options.