Considerations: Sustaining Sustainability

 Sustaining Sustainability

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Some Points to Consider on Regeneration

  1. Experiencing Whole Systems

  2. Sustaining Sustainability


It isn’t sustainable unless the participants in a place, building, etc are engaged in evolving (self organizing around) the process of a healthy, evolutionary trajectory of life. This is the cycling process that self-organizing entities engage in. A spiral of increasing richness and diversity in support of the whole (autopoeisis).

  • This requires feedback and an organization to receive and act on this feedback.
  • The design process needs to set up the process of continuing this journey going forward. Jamie Lerner did this in Curitiba. We set up a Core Team to hold and do this.

Many projects have the beginnings of this kind of approach – but the story should not be expressed in terms of the technical fragments of the system (energy, water, materials, etc). The story needs to be expressed in terms of the aspects of life, the purpose of sustainability – nourishment, shelter, value adding relationships, (vitality, viability, and evolutionary capability – to use a living systems framework).

There are two avenues of greening in play right now. Both are of critical importance – but let’s not confuse the two because they require different mental models. Hopefully these two tracks will merge more quickly than they have been. The first is a “technical” model that is making the attempt to reduce consumption as well as restoring sub-systems such as woodlands, riparian systems, wetlands, etc. This is an important and critical start.

The second track is a living systems approach that engages all of life in an intentional dance – it works with the building of an understanding of the invisible relationships that link the objects of we focus on in Western Society.

The distinction between the two tracks is that of “purpose and understanding”.

As stated above, the two tracks of reducing consumption and living system health ultimately merge. The question is, will we learn about the latter if we only focus on the technologies. Perhaps, but it is likely better to be conscious of the difference. That’s why we add “consciousness” to the well known statement of the need to move from efficiency to effectiveness – the trend line should read – efficiency to effectiveness to consciousness – we need all three.


Practice/Process Steps

Using the following methods, we work with stakeholders to develop an understanding of how buildings, habitat, and people can contribute to ‘the health of the whole’ over time. The objective is to align human activity with the nature of Place – the process asks how we can be participants with the Place – not limiting ourselves by assuming we can only do something to the Place.


  1. Setting the Stage – understanding and aligning human aspirations of a project

  2. Learning about the Place

  3. Frame/sketch/outline the story of Place

  4. Marrying story of Place with aspirations for future

  5. Identify indicators

  6. Integrative Design/Construction Process

  7. Ongoing Feedback