To what degree can human activities associated with the built environment lead to improvements in both ecological integrity and human quality of life?

This is just one of the big questions some 65 sustainability thought leaders and practitioners from Sweden, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Washington, Vancouver and Victoria grappled with as part of the Regenerative Neighbourhoods Summit, held February 14 and 15, 2013 on UBC’s Vancouver campus.

Through small group dialogues, short presentations and world café styled sessions, participants considered the aspirations, key principles and practical challenges of regenerative sustainability. The assembled group drew on lessons learned from regenerative building projects such as UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability and considered practical tools that can be used to apply this knowledge to projects at the neighbourhood scale.

Proceedings were guided by international business facilitator Göran Carstedt and local sustainability professional and UBC’s Regenerative Neighbourhoods Project Manager Dave Waldron. The Kresge and Bullitt Foundations were presenting sponsors.

Regenerative design and development leaders and practitioners participating in the summit included Dr. Ray Cole, Professor and past Director in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at UBC; Bob Berkebile, founding principal of BNIM Architects; Bill Reed, principal of Regenesis Inc.;  John Boecker , founding partner in 7group;  Pamela Mang, founding principal of Regenesis;  Living Building Challenge founder Jason McLennan; and climate action leader Elizabeth Sheehan.

Business and industry representatives from Arup, ITC Construction, Century Group and others, advocacy and community groups, such as Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and By Nature, and local design and development professionals, such as Dialog, provided key perspectives and insight. A number of UBC undergraduate and graduate students were also in attendance.

The Summit and subsequent white paper are part of UBC’s Regenerative Neighbourhoods Project, an applied research project designed to explore the potential, and our capability, for creating neighbourhoods that improve both environmental conditions and human quality of life. It is an exciting example of the work being done through UBC’s Campus as a Living Laboratory initiative.

Associate Provost, Sustainability at UBC, Dr. John Robinson set the tone for the proceedings:  “This summit is just the beginning of what we envision will be a challenging and rewarding journey. We need to more fully understand and explore what we mean by regenerative sustainability at a neighbourhood scale and then create opportunities to apply those concepts in practice.”

More information about the project can be found on the Regenerative Neighbourhoods Project page.