Regenerative Design

To what degree can human activities associated with the built environment improve human wellbeing and ecological integrity?

The Regenerative Neighbourhood Project (RNP) sought to expand on the experiences and lessons learned from the CIRS building project to understand how the concepts of regenerative sustainability could be developed at larger scales, within neighbourhoods and cities. UBC understands regenerative sustainability to mean “improvements in both human and environmental wellbeing, not just reductions in damage or harm” (UBC Sustainability Strategy).

The RNP explored the characteristics of neighbourhoods that seemed to embody aspects of regenerative sustainability, what factors seemed to contribute to their emergence, and how to assess performance at a neighbourhood scale, recognizing that neighbourhoods change over time. The selection of the neighbourhood scale as the primary focus was due the greater level of diversity, complexity and potential opportunities for change, beyond those that exist at the building scale, without being as overwhelming or complicated as at the city scale.

In 2013, UBC hosted the Regenerative Neighbourhoods Summit which brought together practitioners, researchers, policy-makers and other experts to consider how interventions at the neighbourhood scale might catalyze regenerative sustainability. Key areas of conceptual importance emerged: place and context specificity, emphasis on net-positive impacts and the co-evolution of human and natural systems, and a complex or whole systems approach to planning and design.

The second phase of the project continued the refinement of the regenerative neighbourhood concept with an aim towards operationalizing it to inform real-world projects and practices. Students worked with local policy-makers and practitioners–first through a series of themed workshops, then on specific case study projects with partnering planning and design firms– to understand the potential impact of a project on its context, as an intervention that could change the path of development for a neighbourhood.

Key findings included: the distinction between the processes of creating inventions and the performance of the intervention and the neighbourhood; the recognition of the importance of time and uncertainty in understanding neighbourhood development; the challenges of determining accurate and effective metrics and indicators to measure baseline and improvements. Future research is needed to more fully explore these findings.

Resources & Research

Reports & Publications

Theses & Dissertations

Additional resources for regenerative sustainability and design

What's next?

UBC is planning a new residential mixed-use neighbourhood located near Thunderbird Stadium. This neighbourhood provides an opportunity for UBC to develop some of the concepts from the RNP and to study the planning, consultation and design processes and resulting performance of the neighbourhood.