Regenerative Design - Ecology, Health, Community

Regenerative Design

What is Regenerative Design?

The term “regenerative” describes a process that mimics nature itself by restoring or renewing its own sources of energy and materials. At HDR, our architecture practice views regenerative design as design that reconnects humans and nature through the continuous renewal of evolving socio-ecological systems.


Toward Zero, Beyond

Regenerative design moves beyond basic high performance design towards renewal-focused impacts and metric-driven targets for carbon, water, nutrients, air, biodiversity, social and health categories.

Regenerative Design Framework

Regenerative Design Framework

Our regenerative design framework provides a holistic view of performance metrics that should be at the center of design. Bringing these focus areas forward as key design goals allows us to explore “net positive” impacts for carbon, water, nutrients, air, biodiversity, social, and health, set achievable goals against existing benchmarks, and consider the project in its broader context. 

Perspectives on a Regenerative Future

Part of the solution to the climate emergency will require a holistic approach toward design that can positively contribute through regeneration. How do we adopt a regenerative design mindset and why is it important? We asked some of our leaders this question. 

Read what they had to say

How does the architecture, construction, and engineering industry need to transform to mitigate the dire consequences of accelerating climate change? How might regenerative design play a role in that transformation? We asked some of our leaders these questions.

Read what they had to say

6 Things to Know About Regenerative Design

6 Things to Know About Regenerative Design

While a relatively simple concept, it can be challenging to understand how regenerative design is applied within the context of an architectural project. We've pulled together six things you need to know to better understand what it is — and what it isn’t.

Read the Article

Regenerative Design Framework in Action

Regenerative Design Framework Hamilton Center

The city of Hamilton in Washington state has dealt with flooding issues from the Skagit River crest 25 times over the last century. We worked alongside non-profit Forterra to develop a feasibility study and master conceptual design that explores how to create resilient town centre to effectively address these issues, while allowing the community to thrive. This a great example of the regenerative design framework in action as we explored design strategies across several different categories for buildings, infrastructure and land planning.

  • Carbon: Rooftop solar panels for energy; strategies to offset embodied carbon
  • Water: Reclamation and reuse of rain and other wastewater
  • Biodiversity: Protecting the natural habitat and neighboring sea life and environment
  • Nutrients: Anaerobic bio-digesters to process food waste into fertilizer
  • Community: The addition of a community greenhouse

Read more about the project 


Regenerative Design Terms to Know

In recent years, HDR and the architecture, engineering and construction industry as a whole have used many different terms to describe practical design approaches that have measurable outcomes and move us towards a regenerative future. These terms can sometimes be confusing, so we've provided short descriptions below to hopefully bring some clarity. 


humankind’s innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life


the design and production of materials, structures and systems that are modelled on biological entities and processes


the ability of a project to achieve net positive carbon emissions for both operational and embodied carbon due to the project sequestering more carbon than it emits over its lifecycle


strategies that allow a structure to be deconstructed at the end of its life in a way that allows for the re-use of certain building components, extending the life cycle of the building and in turn, its long-term carbon sequestration


net-positive buildings that support health and well-being and connect occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community 


a building that produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, thereby reducing the use of nonrenewable energy in the building sector


a building that produces at least as much emissions-free renewable energy as it uses from emissions-producing energy sources


design that reconnects humans and nature through the continuous renewal of evolving socio-ecological systems


design that reverses damage that has been caused to a particular site by either nature or humans


the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance


a project that achieves net-zero energy, net-zero water and net-zero waste at the site level

Find Out More About Regenerative Design

Stay up-to-date on the latest planning, design trends and innovations for our architecture practice, including new regenerative design articles and tools.