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It is a fact that buildings use over 50% of the world’s natural resources. Sand is already in short supply. Cement makers are worried about depleting reserves of limestone which is the main raw material for cement. Water is another ingredient used in building construction and buildings require 50% of the water we use. At the same time, water tables are dropping and water scarcity is becoming a major problem.
World population in 1990 was 5.3 billion which has now almost gone up by 50% to 7.6 billion. India’s population in 1990 was around 880 million which has now crossed 1.3 billion. Along with population people’s aspiration has gone up manifold thanks to increasing per capita income and also popularity of internet. For today’s common man house is not just four walls and a roof but much more than – a sign of his status and prosperity.
The concept of sustainability has to be looked at keeping in mind the above practical realities. The concept of sustainability is good one and intentions are honest. But sustainability cannot be panacea for all ills plaguing us. Perhaps it may postpone the inevitability but cannot prevent it. In sustainability, more emphasis is on defence while the need of the hour is offense – we all need to attack on the problems affecting us. Sustainability is a poor incentive for innovation, which is the dying need of the hour. Meeting the needs of a sustainable lifestyle is like meeting the minimum requirements for life in the now and in the future.
Sustainability uses technology as the means to achieve conservation while the problem is that the structure is seeking to reduce its contribution to environmental degradation using methodologies and typologies that have been proven not to be the most intelligent and logical solutions for achieving real sustainability. Our goal should not be a sustainable human dynamic; it should be a regenerative dynamic.
So, rethinking on our strategy and goal is the need of the hour. Time has come to move from sustainable architecture to one which is regenerative. Regenerative architecture is the practice of engaging the natural world as the medium for, and generator of the architecture. The living and natural systems that exist on a site should become the building blocks of the architecture. Architecture should be the embodiment of material selection, reduced energy consumption, and intelligent design. The architecture should treat the environment as an equal shareholder in the architecture. We should move towards a practice that employs a full and comprehensive understanding of natural and living systems in the design of a structure. There is an urgent need to embrace the environment and use the millions of years of engineering and evolution as the foundation for a regenerative structure. Note that including the site in architecture is the only way for a building to be beyond sustainable or regenerative.
Once we start treating architecture as the place, the site, the systems, the energy, the building, the fauna and flora, etc., the health of the ecosystem will be improved and the architecture will produce more than it consumes. In a regenerative environment, architecture will be producing a surplus of food, more clean water than it consumes, more energy than it consumes, provide richer diversity than was before the structure became part of the system.
Rating systems like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) provide points on a scale, the more points, the higher the rating. Such a rating system is a prescription for making building more efficient, more ecologically friendly, and lower impact buildings. But we cannot fix the problem of unsustainable buildings until we are ready to acknowledge that the way we build is incorrect and we have to move away from ‘less bad’ approach. A change in the mindset is the need of the hour.
Growing world population and unpardonable waste generation leave us with no option but move beyond mainstream sustainability. Relationship between humans, nonhumans and the environment need to be redefined and we need to write new narrative about the same. With ever expanding urbanization and globalization, there is pressure to re-evaluate the roles of built environments and human activities to protect our environment. Further, life systems and situations persist through a continuous regeneration of effects and situations.
At present, the design is commonly focused on envisioning, creating and developing possibilities and thus laying more emphasis on generating. Therefore, changes need to be brought in in design practice through focusing on a shift from a generative into a regenerative. Systems and designs need to act regeneratively in order to sustain life, living and livelihoods.