Regenerative Architecture: An Innovative Step Beyond Sustainability 

Regenerative Architecture


The expression “regenerative” defines the practice of restoring, renewing, or revitalizing their sources of energy and materials. A regenerative design utilizes the idea of the entire system to generate flexible and equitable systems that would understand the needs of society with absolute integrity towards nature. Regenerative architecture is the way of involving the natural world as the method for and creator of architecture. It reacts to the living and natural systems in a location that becomes the “building units” of the architecture. 

It is a new way of developing structures that goes beyond just sustainability. It is different from sustainably designed buildings, which are based on the concept of only using the minimum resources you need. Regenerative buildings are designed and operated to reverse the damage and have a net-positive impact on the environment. As architects, designers, and planners, we have the unique opportunity to provide this mind shift.


The regenerative architecture was initially a way of reconstruction post-war in several areas of Europe’s devastated cities, which were then affected by the post-industrial era in the mid-1970s, which benefited regenerative projects. Regenerative Architecture first came to notice in 1976. When Wiley published Lyle’s book on “Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development”. John T. Lyle believed in innovative designs which broke the traditional norms of architecture, in a way that resources can be renewed without depleting natural resources. 

Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies is one of the earliest examples of Regenerative Architecture. William McDonough had a sincere dialogue with the client to understand exactly how they expected the building to develop in terms of regenerative design. Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies has green roofs and skins, storing rainwater, wastewater treatment, thermal efficient construction, and energy consumption & production.

Difference between Sustainable and Regenerative architecture 

The meaning of the sustainable design, as depicted in the above diagram, is based on the concept that it does not harm nature and without more than the required amount. Sustainable design is now considered an obsolete concept based on the notion that there is merely any need to sustain our existence, conveniences, routines, and environments. As humankind continues to use resources, it is guaranteed that those resources will ultimately be depleted or extinct.

Sustainable design is a way to reduce the negative impact on the environment by improvising the building efficiency, but the severity of damage caused to the environment in recent years has been catastrophic. Because of this reason, there is a need to think about designing in a way that it sustains not only for years, but restores itself to cause no loss.

The regenerative design, however, is a means of living that allowed us to use the resources we need and replenish those resources Regenerative practices identify how natural systems like our environment have been affected because of various forms of pollution, and the techniques applied helped to restore systems to improved productivity. 

Regenerative and sustainable actions overlap and essentially incorporate nearly the same practices. The regenerative design states more importance of conservation and biodiversity rather than preservation. Regenerative design helps realize humans are a part of the natural ecosystems. Hence, to exclude people is to create densely populated areas that destroy or exceed the limits of the pockets of existing ecosystems. Regenerative architecture is the way of preserving pockets of ecosystems without letting them deplete and replenish naturally.

Therefore, sustainably designed buildings are based on the concept of only using the minimum resources you need. Regenerative buildings are designed and operated to reverse the damage and have a net-positive impact on the environment.

Features of Regenerative Design 

  1. Generating And Storing Energy (Net-Zero Energy)

One of the most important features of regenerative design is the application of zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions. Regenerative design is a way to reduce the consumption and depletion of resources from the environment, instead of storing, consume and regenerate energy, a self-sufficient design technique.

Commercial or administrative structures are one of the highest energy consumers, requiring energy for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and lighting systems. In such cases, the use of the powerful solar radiation received in equatorial regions such as India can always be provided with solar panels in buildings. The energy here can be stored via microgrids which later can be used in the building during night hours, hence achieving the goal of achieving the storing, consuming, and regenerating energy.

Renewable technologies, such as solar panels and wind turbines, are becoming more commonplace in projects such as energy generators. Net-zero energy is an important principle that can help the depleting situation of the environment and create a healthier living space.

  1. Water Storage and Treatment 

Water is one of the most valued resources necessary for the survival and maintenance of balance in nature. Water over the years of over usage, pollution, and wastage has become a scarce resource.

The regenerative design aims to accomplish the objective of net-zero water use. Structures must lower their dependence on municipal water systems and store rainwater through various rainwater harvesting systems, cisterns, and closed-loop water systems. Naturally storing rainwater can play as a useful tool to replenish the underground water, for future use.

As much as using stored water is essential, it is very important to understand how used water can be reused. The regenerative design aims to not only conserve water but also reuse water through various treatment processes. Treated water can be used in various ways, such as in toilet flushes, landscaping, on-site water requirement, and sometimes even in the cooling system.

  1. Climate Adaptation 

Climate has a drastic effect on the structure. A mild climate can also reduce the durability of building materials and affect the indoor climate of buildings. Hence, with a slight temperature drop or increase, there is an instant need to use HVAC systems to maintain human comfort.

Regenerative designing of structures is thought of in terms of climate change as it contributes to nil effect on the structure because of its ability to adapt to natural hazards. These include high winds to decrease damage to the structure façade and the covering, guard the dwellers, reduce heat gain, heat loss, natural ventilation system, and moisture infiltration without having to redesign, or use any additional or external energy to do so. 

Climate adaption strategies include passive cooling techniques, flood-resistant materials, properly planned drainage layout, agricultural landscaping, planting for shade, technologically enhanced foundation systems, no obstruction to biodiversity corridors, and context-based material selection.

“Climate Responsive Facades” where the structure’s exterior can adjust according to its surrounding environment and optimizes its performance within the structure. There are many climate adaption technologies such as “Electrochromic Windows” which control light and heat movement by the voltage applied to the window automatically senses and lightens or darkens windows tint. “Green skins” can be used in the building design industry to help clean the ambient air, sequester carbon and help to maintain the internal temperature of the structure.

  1. Agriculture and Assisting Biodiversity 

In recent years, many plants and animals have gone extinct either because of human interference or extreme climate change. Regenerative design is about the restoration and rejuvenation of flora and fauna. Designers can understand the context of the site, structure, and environment and promote the importance of the species by incorporating them into the structure. The regenerative design would help maintain and sustain the biodiversity of the species in the place. 

Including agriculture with regenerative architecture helps to maintain the demand for agricultural systems to produce food that can be beneficial to the ecology of the environment. It also makes the structure self-sufficient with nil or zero wastage. Organic food is grown using regenerative and permaculture designs to surge biodiversity.

Regenerative Architecture can help to contribute to encouraging biodiversity by developing a necessity of adapting to different opportunities for new improvements, protecting habitats of the surrounding environment, and linking them with new technologies and development to enhance their growth.

  1. Interdependency

Humans are directly or indirectly dependent on the environment. Humans need water to quench their thirst, air to breathe, a comfortable atmosphere to live and food to obtain and sustain energy as well as coal or water or wind to generate electricity, hence nothing is possible unless the natural environment is involved. Whereas many organisms in nature need to interact with other organisms in their environment, they may require other organisms to stay alive.

Regenerative design is developed upon the idea that humans and the built environment exist within natural systems and the built environment ought to be designed to co-evolve with the neighboring natural environment. The purpose of the project does not end with the completion of construction and certificate of occupancy. Rather, the building helps to enhance the relationships between humans, the surrounding built environment, and the adjacent natural systems over a period.

  1. LBC (Living Building Challenges)

The Living Building Challenge is an international sustainable building certification system introduced in 2006 by the non-profit International Living Future Institute. The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is the greatest green building standard that can be achieved by any building type globally. The aim is to produce Living Buildings that essentially include regenerative design solutions that enhance the local environment rather than just simply diminishing harm to the surrounding nature. 

The Living Building Challenge emphasizes the concepts of social equality and democracy, as well as human sustainability, flexibility, and resiliency. These elements resonate with a strong sense of place and user emphasis on incorporating variety, mutual regard, and aesthetic charm.

Examples of Regenerative Architecture 

Bosco Vertical Forest 

‘Vertical Forest’ or Bosco Verticale was inaugurated in October 2014 in Milan in the Porta Nuova Isola area. Bosco Verticale is considered a part of a wider renovation project led by Hines Italia. Milan’s Vertical Forest comprises two towers of 80 and 112 meters, hosting 480 large and medium trees, 300 small trees, 11,000 perennials, covering plants, and 5,000 shrubs. The equivalent – over an urban surface of 1,500 m2–of 20,000 m2 of forest and undergrowth.

The vertical forest is one of the prime examples of Regenerative Architecture. Deriving from the name Bosco Verticale, or “Vertical Forest”, are towers comprising 800 trees, 5,000 shrubs, and 1.5000 perennial plants, which assist in diminishing smog and generate oxygen. Bosco Verticale is a tree-filled tower that helps cities construct for the mass population, including more residential and commercial infrastructure, whilst improving the air quality.

Eco-Sense Residence Victoria 

Residence Victoria is a successful creation of Eco-Sense, a regenerative home for Ann and Gord Baird and their family of six. Residence of Victoria’s residence was designed in a way that functions as a part of the ecosystem and nature surrounding it. 

Residence Victoria comprises many regenerative features like solar design, solar PV with grid-tie, solar thermal, net-zero electricity, energy, and water conservation, composting toilets, rainwater storage, reuse of treated water, green roof, mud floors help with temperature regulation, and natural finishes as an aesthetic element, as an affordable version of earthen architecture. 

The Museum of the West 

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona, on the former site of the Loloma Transit Station and launched in January 2015. The Museum of the West comprises a two-story, 43,000-square-foot museum that features the art, culture, and history of 19 states in the American West, Western Canada, and Mexico. Museum of the West comprises LEED Gold Standard certified interior and exterior spaces for conserving and regenerating natural resources, including the surfaces, materials, colors, shapes, and building techniques. 

The regenerative technique used in the Museum of the West through the “weeping wall” which is in the courtyard. It used the water recycling techniques where it collects rainwater and recycles most of the condensed water from the air conditioning system is used for landscaping, toilet, and other miscellaneous use. The exterior façade of the Museum of the West acts as woven baskets with metal-clad strips that seem to be woven self-shaded board. Textured concrete wall panels tilt up to make up the envelope, to create a microclimate within the structure. 

Omega Center for Sustainable Living 

omega institute

The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York is a wastewater filtration facility that uses the treated water for garden irrigation and in a grey water recovery system, Omega uses the system as an educational tool in its educational program designed around the ecological impact of its campus.

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) comprises many regenerative design techniques such as habitat exchange imperative, net positive water, and energy imperative, reduced carbon footprint, solar-tracking systems, green roofs, and most of the building materials were recycled when used for construction.

The Hive, India

The Hive is in Vesu, an upcoming part of Surat. The development area has apartment complexes on the east and west plots. The HIVE is part of four plots taken for the extended Mistry family. The HIVE is based on form, function, and system, its sculpted on the bases of structural strength, transformability, and biomimicry.

The HIVE is one of the best examples of Regenerative architecture where a solar sensor-based façade has been used to maintain the micro-climate of the structure. The opening and closing mechanism fill the room with ample natural light and maintain thermal comfort levels.


The larger picture of Regenerative Architecture and the responsibility of biology and biomimicry in architecture are all components of a worldwide effort toward exploring and developing techniques to develop buildings that pursue to integrate and re-establish the natural environment. Most of the new strategies related to Regenerative Architecture are only in the prototype phase or the initial development phase. Armstrong’s study, for example, intends to incorporate microbes to build living buildings or live structures that “grow, metabolize and defend us like an immune system.”

Regenerative Architecture also changes the approach toward community development concerns, with a need to plan in a direction that encourages hazardous or marginalized populations, promotes achievable priced accommodation, and takes issues of social equity to the forefront of design considerations. Regenerative design in architecture is about taking accountability and action to diminish the harmful effects of the carbon emissions produced by the structures before, during, and even after construction. Regenerative Architecture is designed through the lens that evolves a more holistic, data-driven, and renewal-focused approach.

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