IBE expands upon regenerative development concept to shape building projects

Energy is an often unnoticed, but common thread that runs through a building, a community, a neighborhood and even a culture. Colorado State University’s Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) has been thinking about this and many other “invisible” topics around whole-system approaches to improving our lived-in environments for over 25 years.

“We are looking at the next wave of healthy built environments,” said Brian Dunbar, the executive director of IBE and Professor Emeritus of design and construction at Colorado State University. “We are thinking about how IBE can contribute to the natural and the social environment.”

Brian Dunbar is Executive Director of the Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) and Professor Emeritus of design and construction at Colorado State University.

This innovative way of thinking is known as “regenerative development,” and was further developed upon by IBE in the early 2000s by a graduate student who built on the concept to create the LENSES Framework. LENSES stands for “Living Environments In Natural Social And Economic Systems,” and at its core is a visual tool that facilitators can use to lead teams through a process for discovery, strategy and implementation. IBE is an international leader in the subject of both the framework and regenerative development. “Some call it sustainability 2.0, but it is really more like 4.0,” explained Dunbar. “We feel like the idea of regeneration echoes what nature does. A forest regenerates after fire, a knee injury heals etc.”

Regenerative development goes beyond sustainability and is closely tied to community and giving back. Dunbar compares a net-zero building that produces the same amount of energy it uses to a net-positive building that creates more energy than it consumes. He points to the net-positive building as an example of regenerative development, because it can contribute to the surrounding community by providing extra energy. Regenerative development at its core aims to revitalize systems, create maximum whole-system efficiency and contribute more than enough energy.

It is about more than just energy though, it is “about building the capacity and capability in people, communities, and other natural systems to renew, evolve, and thrive.” IBE recently published a white paper titled, Becoming a Regenerative Practitioner: A Field Guide that dives deep into the topic and outlines the necessary competencies to develop a life-long regenerative practice.

IBE recently published a white paper titled, Becoming a Regenerative Practitioner: A Field Guide that dives deep into the topic and outlines the necessary competencies to develop a life-long regenerative practice.

Dunbar, who has a background in architecture, believes the future of his field is going to be transformed by regenerative development. Energy, energy efficiency and sustainability will be thought of not only as equalizers, but as ways to contribute and improve to the lived-in environment.

A whole systems, whole-energy, whole-community approach is where IBE’s expertise shines. This is apparent in the City of Fort Collins’ Utilities Administrative Office on Laporte Ave., a project that IBE served as the LEED administrator. The building was first in Colorado and fourth in the world to achieve LEED BD+C v4 Platinum. This building from the get-go was thought of as part of a larger campus for the City of Fort Collins’ office buildings.

Dunbar and IBE’s ability to step back and take a birds-eye view of a project combined with their expertise working in energy has made them a valuable resource to local and regional communities. They focus on five main areas: green building, organizational sustainability, community vitality, facilitation, and regenerative development. On each project that IBE works on, a student is given an internship and hands-on experience working alongside IBE’s team of professionals.

Learn more at Ibe.colostate.edu