New Director of CIRS Ray Cole says we should expand our focus from creating green buildings to creating sustainable patterns of living
Ray Cole, professor in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, has been appointed the new director of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability. Having spent 36 years at UBC studying environmental issues and green building performance assessment, Cole talks about the emergence of regenerative design.
What does the future of green building design look like?
We need to shift from thinking about a building as an individual entity to thinking about its role within a neighbourhood. Instead of focusing solely on the environmental performance of individual buildings, we should consider their role in supporting sustainable patterns of living.
The built environment should be modelled on natural systems and processes. In natural systems, salmon, bears, and trees all play a role in supporting resilient ecosystems. Why should we expect the same environmental performance such as net zero energy or carbon neutrality, for individual buildings – schools, offices, homes or hospitals? We need to design buildings as part of a larger system – as nodes within a web – and seek out opportunities for synergies and exchange in these relationships.
How can we accomplish this?
Environmental issues are still largely framed in alarmist terms. This has been the case for more than 30 years and such messaging has failed to win over the public and change their behaviour.
We have to consider buildings as opportunities to make positive environmental contributions and help restore the things we’ve lost. Regenerative design does this by seeking how buildings and communities can work together to create a positive impact. Rather than viewing a building as an isolated “thing,” regenerative design views it as offering the potential to support the co-evolution of human and natural systems. Over time, it can contribute to building natural capital rather than diminishing it.