What is Regenerative Architecture & why should it matter to you?

by Gillian Holl

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Climate change is the catalyst behind hundreds of thousands of deaths every year across the world. Extreme weather conditions, droughts and natural disasters are wreaking havoc on ecosystems and economies, and costing governments billions. We aren’t trying to be grim. The situation, unfortunately, is already far beyond it. Humanity should be working harder to reduce its carbon emissions and build sustainable relationships with nature. And it all starts with where we live and work.

 

Because the building, construction and related fields contribute to 23% of the world’s carbon emissions, it is imperative that a paradigm shift and transformation takes place in the way we design and build.

 

Professor of Experimental Architecture at the Department of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University, Rachel Armstrong, believes that the biggest concern is that buildings are largely based on Victorian technology.  This involves “a one-way transfer of energy from our environment into our homes and cities,” she says. “This is not sustainable. I believe that the only way it is possible for us to construct genuinely sustainable homes and cities is by connecting them to nature, not insulating them from it,” she adds.

 

However, simply designing sustainable homes and buildings aren’t enough any more. That is why Armstrong and other leaders in the industry have dedicated years of research to various forms of Living and Regenerative Architecture, which will be a far more effective approach over the long-term.

What is Regenerative Architecture?

In a COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) research report entitled Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative the authors explain the three concepts as follows:

 

  • Sustainability: Limiting impact. The balance point where we give back as much as we take.
  • Restorative: Restoring social and ecological systems to a healthy state.
  • Regenerative: Enabling social and ecological systems to maintain a healthy state and to evolve.

 

Regenerative Architecture is essentially the holy grail of buildings. A net-zero, living building that not only lives and breathes and adapts to the environment and uses fewer resources but also reverses damage, gives back to communities and sustains all needs onsite.

 

Regenerative Architecture strategies include:

  • Green roofs and skins
  • The capture and storage of rainwater
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Generating and storing energy
  • Sequestering carbon emissions
  • Obtaining thermal efficiency
  • Creating a suitable habitat for lost wildlife and plants
  • Growing food
  • Increasing biodiversity
  • Addressing pollution
  • A building with no negative health impact on inhabitants
  • The ability to adapt to weather conditions
  • Healing the environment

Why are we telling you this?

The bigger picture of Regenerative Architecture, and the role of biology and biomimicry in architecture are all part of a global movement towards researching and developing ways to grow buildings that seek to integrate and restore the natural environment. Most of these new strategies are only in prototype phase. Armstrong’s research, for example, aims to use microbes to build living buildings that “grow, metabolise and defend us like an immune system.

 

So why are we telling you this now? Because the change in how buildings are built starts with you. Although many Regenerative Architecture strategies are still in development, some can already be implemented. Buildings can produce fresh oxygen and solar energy, and it is possible for buildings to capture and store rainwater. Forget about the allure of fibre or on-site gyms for a moment. With everything we know about climate change, shouldn’t net-zero, living buildings with the ability to improve our air become the marketing hooks developers use to attract potential home buyers instead?

 

If you are interested in Regenerative Architecture, team up with the Architects that are excited to see these strategies come to life in the South Africa context.

Talk to Veld Architects!

Email us:

Gillian@veldarchitects.co.za

Anien@veldarchitects.co.za

 

Chat soon,

Gill

Building with Nature

by Gillian Holl

As spring comes round there is a newfound interest in nature, I have found. Nurseries are busier than usual with people looking for trees, plants and flowers to reconnect with nature after winter. People are yearning for more greenery in the home or at the office all year round, which just amplifies the fact that nature is part of our DNA. We need it to function optimally, just as it needs us to survive. 

Over the past few decades there has been a massive influx of people into urban areas because, naturally, this is where a lot of the jobs are. Technology, trends and other forms of entertainment also consume a lot more of our time, meaning less time to spend outside in nature.

In a perfect world, nature shouldn’t be something you should have to travel to in order to connect with. It should be right there on your doorstep at home. It should surround you on your way to the shops and also at the office. It might sound unrealistic, but others are getting it right.

 

Like this Contemporary Art Gallery in the city of Paris, designed by Jean Nouvel and built in 1984.

It is essential to reconnect people to nature through architecture, and here’s why:

 

Nature exposure is linked to improved health

Countless studies have been done and the facts speak for themselves: nature heals. Of course we all know this. We can feel an instant physical and emotional change during a hike in the woods or while dipping our bare feet in a cool stream. Nature makes us happier, more peaceful and allows us to think more clearly. Exposure to nature has been linked to a reduction in amongst many recovery time after surgery, ADHD symptoms in children, cardiovascular disease, stress, anger and fear.

Nature exposure links us to each other 

Studies done by the Human-Environment Research Lab and the University of Illinois showed that people with trees and green spaces around their buildings knew more people, had a stronger connection of unity with neighbours, and were more concerned to support and help each other. Further investigation measuring fMRI brain activity showed that the part of the brain associated with love and empathy lit up when people were shown scenes of nature. 

Nature exposure could encourage an ethical relationship with nature

Global warming is an incredibly important issue we all need to be aware of and take action against within our circles of influence. The hope is that through improved exposure to nature and reconnecting with it on a daily basis more ethical relationships with nature will be encouraged.

Am I suggesting we all move out of the city? Or move to a city closer to beaches or parks? What a lovely thought, but no. I’m suggesting that we rethink the way we design any new building and encourage innovative ways to bring nature to urban areas like for example through green roofs, and other sustainable initiatives. Because at the end of the day it will be a win-win.

Architects have a leading role to play in the built environment, but it all starts with you. Not all architects have sustainable, nature-inspired designs at the heart of their mission and vision. That’s why you should choose an architectural firm that will connect your building to nature, preserve the natural topography of the site and do so sustainably with tomorrow in mind.

At Veld Architects this is what we do best. 

Let’s chat.

Email me on gillian@veldarchitects.co.za

 

Love,

Gill

How a green roof can help reduce your carbon footprint

by Gillian Holl

Globally a new movement referred to as “flight-shaming” has taken shape. People around the world are coming together to ask the public (and especially business travellers) to opt for other modes of transportation (like rail). Flying contributes to over 2% of the  earth’s carbon emissions.

Alternative eco-friendly ways of travelling in and around South Africa isn’t as developed as it is in Europe or Britain for example. That’s why SA Travel Industry started an initiative to offset carbon instead: by planting spekboom. A single hectare of spekboom can rid four tonnes of carbon from the environment per year. The Spekboom project aims to educate people on how planting enough spekboom can eventually make flights into and from SA carbon-neutral.

The building and construction industry and its related fields contribute towards 23% of the world’s carbon emissions. It makes me wonder why a movement such as “building-shaming” isn’t making headlines too? Perhaps because all of us are guilty of this…

The good news is sustainable building innovations in this field can bring down emissions drastically.

Something that is trending on this front, especially in cities overseas, is the use of green roofs. In fact, in some cities this is mandated policy. While green roofs aren’t “new”, it is most definitely brilliant. Something that city dwellers, businesses, those with limited yard space and even homes with large green scapes around them should all consider equally.

Apart from cleaning the air and producing oxygen, vegetation on roofs also:

  • Cool down the environment: Green roofs offer shade and encourages evapotranspiration, which lowers temperatures by up to 3% in urban areas, fighting the urban heat island effect.
  • Reduce energy requirements: Cooler, more insulated roofs means a more sustained indoor temperature during summer.
  • Improve biodiversity: Green roofs attract birds and insect species to our cities, offices and homes. Biodiversity has a fundamental role to play in the food we eat and the water we drink.
  • Filter rainwater: Green roofs can filter pollutants and heavy metals rainwater.
  • Protect roofs: A vegetation carpet on your roof can also extend the life of your roof by protecting it from the elements.

Greener buildings and homes also have a massive positive effect on our emotional and physical well-being.

You can make a difference where you live and where you work, simply by researching ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Why not plant a spekboom?

 

At Veld Architecture, it is one of our core beliefs to design buildings that are more sustainable. From something as simple as building orientation to more complex strategies such as eco pools, green roofs and making use of recycled materials – we aim to make buildings more eco-friendly.

Sustainable building is the future of architecture, and our firm would love nothing more than to make your project reflect this.

 

Let’s chat! 

Email me on gillian@veldarchitects.co.za 

 

Love,

Gill