Why Regenerative Development?

In times of change, the learners will
inherit the Earth while the knowers will
find themselves beautifully equipped
to deal with a world that no longer exists.

-Eric Hoffer


A regenerative future depends first and foremost on regenerative behavior by each member of our human community. Regenerative Development and long-term Regenerative management is a byproduct of this behavioral change. Our future is also dependent on understanding our bioregional context and codependence for our health and wellbeing and the vitality and health of each living organism in our bioregion.

For change to occur we must recognize how far we are from any connection or understanding of our human species total dependence and source of life on our natural world. As Thomas Berry says in “The Great Work”;

The indigenous people of the world live in a universe, in a cosmological order, whereas we, the peoples of the industrial world, no longer live in a Universe. We in North America live in a political world, a nation, a business world, an economic order, a cultural tradition, a Disney dream land…. We seldom see the stars at night or the planets or the moon. Summer and winter are the same inside the mall…. We read books written with a strangely contrived human alphabet. We no longer read the Book of Nature or the Book of the Universe.

History of Regenerative Development

In 1994, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) assembled 22 thought leaders representing numerous disciplines from across North America. This meeting became known as the Sanborn Habitat Conference. I was one of the 22 invited by NREL to access the impact of technology on human habitat in the next 50 years. As a group, most of us having never met each other, decided that we needed to first define what a healthy human habitat should be and then determine the supportive role of technology in 50 years.

The final product of this conference was the development of: The Sanborn Principles – Guidelines for Sustainable Development for New and Existing cities.


Healthy Indoor Environment for Occupants
Ecologically Healthy
Socially Just
Culturally Creative
Physically and Economically Accessible

Sanborn principles were integrated into the CityCraft® process in 2001, as a foundational framework for The Noisette Community. The Sanborn Principles are the first set of regenerative principles developed in the United States. We later became aware of The Natural Step, the work of Karl-Henrik Robèrt of Sweden, created in 1989.

My sense is that REGENERATIVE DEVELOPMENT is a rediscovery of past wisdom much the same as GREEN BUILDING was a rediscovery of the wisdom of MASTER BUILDING. Our current efforts do not come near the regenerative capacity exhibited in numerous example of aboriginal cultures across our planet and the many examples in North America before the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. The Lakota Medicine Wheel is a classic example of regenerative principles in the United States at the core of the Lakota Culture. The Cistercian Tradition, going back to 900 AD, has many attributes of regenerative design and development.

The difference, prior to the Industrial Revolution was the need to respect and understand our natural resources – excess and limitations, climatic conditions and threats, as well as our dependence on our place and each other to survive as individuals, as a family and as a community. They understood humans, buildings and organizations as organic, evolutionary and integrated ecosystems as a part of the natural world.

Primary Principles of Regenerative Development

If we are to achieve a regenerative future, we must understand that as humans, we are both a biologic organism and a social being with a spiritual dimension. As a biologic organism, we require adequate clean air and water, healthy soils to provide healthy food and resilient shelter based on our unique bioregion. As a social being we require a network of others organized and connected to us supporting a healthy and thriving community each with access to the above four resources. A decision that threatens the capacity or health of these required resources for all is not regenerative.

A State of Regeneration assures that “every decision consistently improves the long term Bioregional health and capacity of every social, natural, economic and existing human built systems”.

CityCraft’s® Primary Principles and Values

• Social Durability
• Respect
• Collaboration
• Resilience
• Evolutionary
• Ecologically and Socially Healthy
• Physically and Economically Accessible
• Beauty
• Culturally Creative
• Value all Capital Forms and Systems

CityCraft® Process of Regenerative Development

• Community Engagement based on Social Durability
• Forensic Process
• Asset Inventory
• Capital Mapping
• Bioregional Context
• Systems Scale
• Cross Sector Systems Scale Integration and Benefit Transfer
• Integrated Design
• Bioregional Long Term Health
• Resource Harvester and Resource Manager

The CityCraft® Process is rooted in the Master Building tradition, the foundation of our families building and development practice since 1908. Our approach at the building and community Scale were guided by:

“Values of Place”.
Beauty and Aesthetics
Accidental Meeting Place
Surprise and Discovery
Resource Efficiency
Leaving Your Mark
Human Form Emerging Naturally from Its Place

CityCraft® has evolved as a 21st Century Master Building model for new and existing cities to heal the economic, environmental and social fabric long-term.

CityCraft® is a process and mind sight that is evidenced by a substantial change in your way of thinking, behavior, and how, why and what you value.

A CityCraft® Thinker understands humans, buildings, neighborhoods and organizations as organic, evolutionary and integrated ecosystems.

A CityCraft® Mindset is grounded in process not formulas, is forensic in nature and not defined by predetermined out comes or answers.

A CityCraft® Leader understands that:

  • Every problem or critical issue, we are trying to solve, must be addressed at the systems scale and solved across sectors with an integrated systems approach.
  • Social Durability is the Foundation for long term social and economic durability and must be built not only at the community level but also at every scale of the community from neighborhoods to organizations and across every collaborative team.

CityCraft® Principles and Process of Capital Mapping, Community Building, Capacity Building, Empowerment are grounded in a belief that:

  • We must first heal the social, economic and environmental justice issues of our communities at the most effective systems unit of each system to achieve a regenerative economy and a sustainable community and culture.
  • Cross Sector Integrated Solutions at Systems scale provide the highest value allowing the benefits from one systems to transfer to another creating new forms of capital capacity in our community.
  • Capital in a community includes four forums – social, natural, economic and existing physical assets. Highest Capital capacity occurs when solutions value and integrate all forms capital across NGO, Public and Private Sectors

CityCrafting® is a paradigm shift from short term to long term, anonymity to awareness, aggregation to diversity, extraction to investment, linear to holistic, end state to evolutionary, competitive to collaborative, building things to building community, closed to open source, mistrust to trust, wisdom of experts to wisdom of community, knowing to unknowing, starting with questions not answers.

A CityCraft® leader trusts that the process and community will emerge the right solution and ultimate answers understanding that:

  • A current answer is not an end state but only a place on the evolutionary path to a regenerative future. We cannot define this end state and path because it is improving, changing and evolving overtime to a higher state of regenerative and sustainable capacity.
  • Empowerment is the removal of obstacles and limitation on resources so that all members of a community can achieve their highest potential and exercise the power that is innately theirs.
  • Health of our Bioregion, operating at a fully regenerative state, is the only defined result but we will only know it when we are there. It will mean that we have healed the economic, environmental and social fabric of our community and Bioregion.
  • No action by any person or organizations damages another or undermines any of the four forms of capital supporting our community.

We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see the land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
– Aldo Leopold


citycraft-people-prosperity-planetIf you would like to learn more about the history and application of our regenerative principles to real life buildings, neighborhoods and district scale urban communities please visit us at www.citycraftventures.com.

Copyright ©2016 by CityCraft® All Rights Reserved

About the Author

John L. Knott, Jr.
CityCraft Ventures, LLC


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