The Regenerative Design Summit, organized by USGBC Georgia with the support of The Kendeda Fund, was convened on October 12 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Day Hall. The one-day summit started with an opening plenary, followed by in-depth panel discussions on various aspects of regenerative design, and it closed with an interactive process workshop.
Here are some notes from the proceedings to give you a sense of the day’s activities:
- Plenary session with Bill Reed. Working with potential (the evolutionary health of nested living systems) is preferable to working with problems. In other words, harmonize, not compromise. Focusing on problems leads to a fragmented approach, whereas focusing on potential has the ability to dissolve problems. Enlarging the scope of seemingly unsolvable problems often shifts the perspective to potential.
- Resource stewardship panel discussion: Georgia Tech and The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design are making great strides in developing campus-wide sustainability metrics and a net positive approach to energy and water, respectively. Embodied carbon is a harder sell than operational carbon, because it is harder to see and to assign monetary value. Whole Building Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) can help to identify a project’s high-impact areas. Carbon has time value, and with the pressing need to address climate change, early savings should gain higher priority over long-term savings. Embodied emissions from building materials and construction processes fall in the early savings category, whereas operational emissions fall in the long-term savings category.
- Biomimicry, biophilia and ecotone panel discussion: It is possible to have it all and, at the same time, halve it all by using nature’s efficiency as an inspiration. Nature also has a calming and uplifting effect that puts one in the present moment. Types of diversity to consider are bio, material and experiential. When you are dealing with a project with too much focus on monetary costs, take the client for a walk in the woods to shift perspective.
- Quantification and metrics panel discussion: When it comes to building materials, from a manufacturer’s perspective, action on climate change (carbon footprint) can be the post-sustainability frontier. Energy poverty and energy burden are real problems; there are people who have to skip meals or miss refilling prescriptions in order to pay their utility bills. A strategic combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy has the potential to ease the energy burden for the vulnerable.
- Interactive process workshop: How does a project in Atlanta add value to the larger “whole” (community, city, ecoregion, life-shed, etc.) in which it resides, and how does the larger whole inform the development of the project? How does one define the bounds of the larger whole? The development of a purpose statement for a project can lead to surprising insights for its approach to regenerative design. Action is informed by strategy, which is, in turn, informed by beliefs and principles.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects was the incorporation of live audience polling to measure how the summit influenced the participants’ outlooks and perceptions. To this end, the audience poll included two prompts:
- Rank perceived barriers to regenerative design (before the summit started)
- List things I will do right away to effect change (at the end of the summit)
Responses by audience were quite revealing, even when the options to rank or prioritize were embedded into the poll questions. Here are the findings.
Figure 1. 38 respondents ranked perceived barriers to regenerative design (before summit). Data for the graphic is courtesy of USGBC Georgia.
Figure 2. 31 respondents identified things they would do right away to affect change (after summit). Data for the graphic is courtesy of USGBC Georgia.
Lord Aeck Sargent appreciates the opportunity to be a part of the volunteer committee that helped USGBC Georgia organize the summit and gather participant feedback.