• International Journal of Technology (IJTech)
  • Vol 11, No 4 (2020)

Towards Regenerative Architecture: Material Effectiveness

Salahaddin Yasin Baper, Mahmood Khayat , Lana Hasan

Corresponding email: salahaddinbaper@yahoo.com

Cite this article as:
Baper, S., Khayat, M., Hasan, L., 2020. Towards Regenerative Architecture: Material Effectiveness. International Journal of Technology. Volume 11(4), pp. 722-731

Salahaddin Yasin Baper Architectural Engineering Department, Salahaddin University –Erbil, Zanko Street, Kirkuk Road, Erbil City, Kurdistan Region, Iraq, 44002
Mahmood Khayat Architectural Engineering Department, Salahaddin University –Erbil, Zanko Street, Kirkuk Road, Erbil City, Kurdistan Region, Iraq, 44002
Lana Hasan Architectural Engineering Department, Salahaddin University –Erbil, Zanko Street, Kirkuk Road, Erbil City, Kurdistan Region, Iraq, 44002
Email to Corresponding Author


Environmental problems were initiated with the rise of human civilization, and they increased with the rise in technology’s contribution to human lives. Researchers in the field of architecture believe that regenerative approaches are systems based on aligning architectural design with natural resources to provide positive outcomes. Regenerative design holds significant promise for a new theory of sustainable architecture. The aim of this paper is to provide a theoretical framework for the concept of regenerative architecture and testing materials’ effectiveness (thermal, availability, waste, and toxicity) and impacts on shifting towards regenerative architecture. Materials’ thermal properties were examined by determining energy consumption through Ecotect as a simulation program. However, other factors were measured by a checklist derived from an intense review of the literature. The results revealed that the existing current buildings in Erbil City do not lie in the regenerative zone. Moreover, the study also shows that material selection plays a significant role in reducing energy consumption and toxicity levels that result from moving architectural design towards regenerative design.

Architectural design concepts; Ecotect; material effectiveness; Regenerative architecture;


Regenerative architecture (which goes beyond the scope of sustainable design) is considered the highest architectural design concept in terms of positive productivity towards the environment, while sustainability aims at being neutral, which mean less harm to nature and the environment. These aims can be achieved by implementing some theories, such as place-based theory, co-evolution system theory, and whole and living system theory. The “regenerative design” term has been newly integrated into the architectural design area, but the major principals that have recently been recognized as regenerative design tenets are mainly based on the previous works of ecological design professionals (Williams, 2014). Therefore, a change in mindset is needed to produce a regenerative design whose goal is not only causing less damage but also making designs contribute to maintain the ecological system as healthy and productive (Reed, 2007; Baper, 2013; Cole, 2015; Berawi, 2017).

 This paper has two main objectives. The first objective is to establish a multi-dimensional model for regenerative architecture, which includes the most effective parameters.

    The second objective is to extend the efficiency analysis of material effectiveness strategies that improve cost effectiveness, energy consumption, and the use non-toxic, ecologically regenerative materials in housing complexes projects in Erbil City. The selection of typical housing projects will urge investors as well as householders to consider the importance of material effectiveness during construction periods. The goal is to design a model that can propose net-positive contributions and add value by using new strategies that shift from net-zero to net-positive, creating zero waste, which has a greater output than its input. In other words, regenerative architecture intends to adapt the current available technologies towards a new system that provides no waste with positive outcomes by melding architecture’s physical properties within nature (ground, native plants, and ecological surroundings). It is a representation of an essential rethinking of architectural design by controlling the use of energy, water, carbon emissions, and waste generation reduction (Zari, 2009; Zari and Jenkin ,2010).

In parallel, the study discusses material effectiveness strategies that have been proposed to improve cost effectiveness, energy consumption, and the use of non-toxic, ecologically regenerative materials in housing complex projects in Erbil City. Locally available materials must be used in regenerative projects that contribute to broadening the regional economy in sustainable practices, products, and services (Living Building Challenges, 2012).

The construction of buildings consumes large volumes of resources, which is why material choices between biodegradable, recycled, and sustainable materials makes a huge difference (Franzoni, 2011). Material selection is crucial because it can change a building from sustainable to regenerative. A sustainable building can be constructed using green-material construction. Similarly, utilizing regenerative material-construction produces a regenerative building. The selection of typical housing projects will urge investors as well as householders to consider the importance of material effectiveness during construction periods.

Figure 1 Range of sustainability approaches (Reed, 2007)


    The regenerative architecture concept goes beyond “less bad” or even “net-zero” design approaches to sustainability and aims at “net positive” design in architecture. It aims to regenerate systems with complete effectiveness that allow the co-evolution of humans’ built environment along with nature. The most influential factors in assessing regenerative building are: energy generation, water purification, material effeteness, responsible places, and indoor environmental quality. Hence, regenerative architecture can be identified and designed by considering these factors. In other words, a building can be considered regenerative if all the above factors exist in its design. A checklist can also be generated from these five factors to evaluate whether a building is regenerative or not. After applying the checklist factors to local cases in Erbil City, the results indicated that all local cases are within the conventional design approach.

    The analysis of the simulation results indicated that all case studies in Erbil City are outside of regenerative design, rather than all considered as degenerative building, because their U-values are greater than 0.1 W/m2K, which is considered the U-value of regenerative buildings by the reviewed literature. However, the comparative study between the U-values of the case studies has shown that Vital City has the closest U-values, at 0.21 W/m2K, to the suggested U-value for regenerative designs.

Despite reducing energy consumption by adding XPS to the “as built” wall material, the level of toxicity in the case studies was raised, which is not allowed in regenerative design concepts, whereas using bio-based materials (straw board) that are locally available has a level of toxicity at almost zero. It can also be recycled, which has positive impacts on sustaining local resources. Therefore, it is recommended to use straw board instead of XPS—regardless of its lower effect in reducing energy consumption.

    It is worth mentioning that by changing only the material, regenerative architecture cannot be achieved, as it has been clarified that regenerative construction means positive output, rather than reducing consumption. Therefore, other factors should be dealt with. 


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