There’s a new climate push in the construction industry. It is called “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 only in 2019. Developers and construction giants 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.
We have extracted a few examples here.
Raffles City Shopping Centre, Singapore
This rooftop garden, which sits above a large shopping mall in downtown Singapore, grows over 1,600 organic herbs and plants that are used for food and skincare ingredients. The tiny Southeast Asian nation has limited land for agriculture and imports most of its produce, though the government aims to grow 30% of domestic produce locally by the end of the decade. Edible Garden City, the business which runs the site, maintains multiple plots across the country that grow mushrooms and leafy greens. Some also breed fish and insects.
Bamboo Theatre, Zhejiang, China
Designed by Beijing-based DnA and completed in 2015, this theatre is constructed entirely from living bamboo from the surrounding mountains. The theatre hosts a range of activities, from opera to meditation sessions.
The species of bamboo can grow when bent and has roots that spread out horizontally to create the foundation of a building. Bamboo is a very fast grower and each year, old bamboo can be easily be replaced and bent to join the existing structure.
Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul, South Korea
The demolishing of an elevated motorway uncovered six kilometers of Seoul’s historic Cheonggyecheon stream. The project, completed in 2005, increased biodiversity by more than sixfold, according to the Landscape Performance Series. Within three years of restoration, paths along the stream were as much as 5.9 degrees Celsius cooler than on a parallel road four blocks away, and air pollution dropped by more than a third.