Bill Reed Seminar at AIA

This week all Pidcock staff attended a seminar, hosted by the AIA, on "The Integrative Design Process - A new approach for sustainable design". This 2 hour talk was presented by Bill Reed, an "internationally recognized proponent and practitioner of sustainability".


Bill was also in Sydney to speak with people from Lend Lease.

Bill Reed is a "recovering" architect, a consultant, design process facilitator and lecturer who is principal of a regenerative planning firm ("Regenesis") and a strategic environmental planning firm ("Integrative Design"). He is also president of the Integrative Design Collaborative (1). From my brief experience he is also a talented speaker/communicator and his talk was quite inspirational.

Bill's talk was in two parts, "Regeneration" and "Integrative Design Process".

Bill started the talk by suggesting that he present up front what he understands "Regeneration" to be and in particular "Regenerative Design" which has at its essence the idea that places can be healed and regenerated through human development. There is an understanding that people have always "developed" their inhabited spaces and for much of history, and to a degree in certain parts of the world still, this was mutually enhancing and in partnership with nature. The goal of regenerative design can be seen as a rekindling of this wisdom and an enhancing of its application to regenerate physical spaces (2).

"If you can do it forever, it's sustainable. If you can't, it isn't." (quote used in talk by Bill)


This definition of regeneration was then compared with some Green rating Tool's approach to breaking down a "Green" building into "parts" which seem to be isolated from the environment that they are part of.  The above graph was used to illustrate how Bill sees the place of "regenerative design" as opposed to other approaches to sustainable design.

The talk then moved to the topic of "Integrative Design Process". This is essentially an alternative to the normal linear work program used in most design projects. Below is an diagram of a typical "linear process".


As opposed to this traditional view of project management the integrative design philosophy is to "Go slow to go fast", ie ensure an in-depth, inclusive  and comprehensive consultation "discovery process" at the beginning of a project to establish a regenerative project brief before entering into concept design stage. This should include all consultants, clients and stakeholders and there is a focus on establishing constructive relationships at this embryo stage of the project. Bill's experience is that this type of approach will allow the latter parts of a project to happen at more accelerated but informed pace. The end result will be a more considered and regenerative project. Below is an diagram of a typical "integrative design process".


Whilst Bill had many fascinating examples of these ideas in practice his anecdote regarding a co-op grocery store in Vermont was very revealing of people's reaction to this type of approach if approached incorrectly. Bill admitted that he did not communicate his ideas to all the relevant stakeholders so not everyone was included in the "discovery process". The result was not as positive as it could have been as higher management were brought in on the idea at too late a stage. In a nutshell:

-        Grocery store wanted a LEED-certified building. Called in Bill.

-        Bill "Do you want LEED or do you want to be truly sustainable?"

-        Grocery Store Management: "Sustainable please".

-        After a "discovery" period Bill presented the grocery store management with a number of suggestions

-        Bill: "Change relationship with the community, to food suppliers and to the local forest service."

-        Bill: "Become a place where people come to shop for locally produced food and engage with the community, learn to grow and prepare food and move the community toward self-sufficiency and food security."

-         Grocery Store Management:"Nice..!"

-        Grocery Store Higher Management: "hhmmmmmmmmmm......."

The end of this story was that Bill did not hear from the grocery store for a year but they did call back and when they did it was to tell him that the ideas he'd left them were the best thing that ever happened them. They had established a 100 year "Ends Policy" which would implement Bill's ideas in incremental steps. This illustrates how "Big Picture" regenerative thinking can be harder to digest that the more palatable pieces of a green rating tool's wish list but ultimately a more sustainable end goal is achieved.

As designers we can help clients see this regenerative end goal as long as we establish appropriate, inclusive relationships with decision makers and clients through an integrative design process.

All in all an inspirational speaker and a very enjoyable evening.

Fergal White




All images from "The Integrated Design Guide to Green Building" by 7 Group and Bill Reed.

Bill Reed LINK

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