By Eera Babtiwale, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President of Sustainability, HMC Architects; and Eric Carbonnier, PhD, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President of Sustainability, HMC Architects

When it comes to architecture and design, sustainability is more than just a buzzword. Though the term has become somewhat ubiquitous, it’s always been in our best interest to design projects that consume less. Here at HMC Architects, we apply the concepts of sustainable design to every project. But what if we can do more than just meet our needs? What if we can envision a regenerative environment?

Regenerative architecture challenges architects to design buildings that restore, renew, or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials to create sustainable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nourishing nature. We are inspired by John Lyle’s systems ecology approach to architecture, and we propose that a regenerative approach restores whereas a sustainable approach does not. That shift motivates our work culture to start exploring net positive strategies, so that our buildings can renew nature and give back to our communities.

Our goal at HMC is to change the way we think and approach architecture by infusing this passion into every aspect of our work culture. With regenerative design being one of our strategic goals this year, we’re adopting new resolutions that change how HMC sees the world and supports our shared belief that the environment is central to health, prosperity, and the communities we serve.

Today, our mission is to empower our people to start dialogues about regenerative design, to go beyond green building certifications and question the methods we’re currently using. Our first initiative is with the recruitment of regenerative leaders in each HMC office. These leaders are responsible for the sustainability of their studio, from organizing learning opportunities about the latest in green building techniques and technologies to sourcing fair-trade, sustainable coffee for their office’s coffee bar. Through our regenerative leaders, we’re fostering a culture that thinks deeply about the future, and that mindset carries over to our projects and communities.

Imagine an elementary school with incredible learning environments for its students, but that also produces excess energy that powers the surrounding neighborhood. Envision a hospital with a storm water management system that provides non-potable irrigation water back to its community. Picture a city library with an entirely edible landscape that feeds its residents.

To visualize this regenerative future, we’re celebrating our sustainable project successes and learning from them as we move toward regenerative design. Built in 2008, the Frontier Project is a top-rated high-performance building that features a downdraft cool tower to cool the 14,000-SF water and energy demonstration facility, setting the trend for zero net energy development. Our design for the Building Information and Technology Building at CSU Monterey Bay was recently awarded LEED Platinum and features a double skin that lowers heat gain and creates layers of daylight porosity. And currently in design is a zero net energy project, the North Coastal Health and Human Services Agency facility, which is slated for completion in October 2018.

Every year for Earth Day, we organize a series of educational events for our employees, and this year we’ve planned another exciting program. From April 17 through April 22, we’ll be hosting inspirational speakers, a high performance product fair, electric car test drives, garden planting, and social media sustainability challenges for our employees. We’re bringing a focused sustainability awareness to everyone here at HMC and encouraging dialogues about the next step for our industry—making regenerative architecture the new standard.