WHAT are eco-effective regenerative buildings?

Eco-effective regenerative buildings are buildings that not only support the development of mixed-use density, but also provide the necessary physical and technical support for green infrastructure including green walls, green facades, and green roofs. Regenerative buildings are designed and engineered to improve their surrounding environment such as restoring a site's natural hydrology or providing for lost wildlife and plant habitat. 


Dense, populous cities require significant quantities of products produced by ecosystem services to support the necessities of life and support a sustainable economy. The production of oxygen, purification of water, and pollination are three of the most important of the products produced by ecosystem services that green infrastructure such as green roofs and green facades support. As we intensify the density and populations of our cities to meet growing world populations, we will also need to intensify our provision of green infrastructure to support the ecosystems that produces these services. Cities have not typically been thought of as the location for natural ecosystems, but to be truly symbiotic, cities will need to effectively incorporate the green infrastructure required to support key ecosystem services.


To transform our cities into Symbiotic Cities we will need to design and engineer our buildings to not only provide for their functional, programmatic requirements, but to also become the generator of ecosystem services. Buildings will need to be designed to collect and store rainwater; provide the necessary structure to support extensive and intensive green roofs; and provide for extensive areas of green facades and green walls. 

Specific design elements to reduce energy consumption and associated carbon production, as well as to better integrate the project into a city’s natural ecosystems would include:

Reduced glass to wall ratio: Designed for high energy efficiency and including glass-to-wall ratios of between 20 to 40% to reduce energy lost through glass.

Extensive use of “green façades”: To provide an infrastructure for the growing of plant material that will not only screen a building from the summer sun, but also provides a resilient screen (created by the stainless steel mesh structure that supports the plant materials) against high speed projectile debris produced during extreme weather events. This green façade also provides natural cooling for the building in summer by means of natural evapotranspiration by the plant material, which reduces the air temperature between the screen and the building façade. (see Figure 4)

Natural ventilation: Designed to take advantage of natural ventilation using operable windows. Most interestingly, because the green façade acts as a buffering wall, the higher wind velocities higher up the building that would typically prevent the use of operable windows, are reduced to a manageable level.

Production of Environmental Services: A green façade and extensive use of green roof remove CO2 from the air, and produce oxygen through photosynthesis. This micro-ecosystem also helps clean the air, and provide habitat for micro to macro organisms.

Biological Human Waste Treatment: Designed to include an “eco-machine” to process waste produced by the buildings inhabitants through biological means.

Rainwater Retention and Use: Rainwater would be stored for use in flushing toilets and urinals, as well as for irrigating the green façade.

Use of Infinitely Recyclable Materials: To reduce the hugely negative impact resource extraction has on the natural environment, designed as far as possible to be constructed with materials that could be infinitely recycled. The three key building materials were therefore steel (for structure), glass and aluminum (for building envelope).

Use of Wood: FSC Wood would be used wherever possible, as it is a sustainable carbon sequestering material. Floor slabs would be designed as CLT (cross laminated timber) decks––which are fire resistant, durable, and are naturally beautiful.

Heating and Cooling: Radiant heating and cooling––the ventilation and heating/cooling systems would be decoupled to reduce energy needs and mechanical sizes (e.g.. fans, shafts, and ducts)

Heat Recovery: Heat recovery from exhaust air as well as discharge of this air through the underground parking to reduce ventilation costs

Daylight Harvesting: Photocell control of lighting to maximize benefit of daylight harvesting in combination with external solar shading provided by the “green screens” on southern exposure, as well as the minimization of glazing on east and west exposures



  1. The Living Building Challenge
  2. Living and Regenerative Building Design - The National Institute of Building Sciences (USA)