Our Being State
7group is a network of like minded companies who share a passion for
Who Is 7group
The Essence of 7group
“Humans are a part of nature, not apart from nature.” -Marc Beckoff
We all want to make an positive impact on the world. In all humility all we can generally expect is to make a small dent. At our core 7group has been essentially trying to empower systemic change in the way humans live through the instrument of building since our coming together over 20 years ago. While our focus has expanded from technical systems to living systems, our aim remains the same. We explore connections, to develop interrelationships, that promote holistic affects. The trajectory of our thinking has led us to the obvious conclusion that humans need to re-member their contributory place in the council of beings as co-evolutionary participants in nurturing and contributing to the health of all life.
We belief that:
- All life matters . . . Humans are nature
- Everyone plays a valuable role
- The built environment serves as an instrument for regenerating life
The process is the journey, it is all about the journey.
Beginning with integrative process – not enough.
Regenerative Whole-Systems Approach
Each particular place is alive, unique and evolving. If we want to flourish over time, we must understand that we are in mutually beneficial relationship with each particular place and that humans play a participatory role in the vitality of the living systems in which we are nested.
The basis of regenerative whole-systems approach lies in understanding that role through understanding the uniqueness of each place we live and work – and what created and continues to create that unique identity. The cultural environment we call a community is a living system composed of many complex cultural and natural systems that form a web of mutual support. The health of cultural (and economic) systems is ultimately dependent on the health of natural – or living – systems.
Regeneration is rooted in the belief that healthy living systems have an inherent capacity to continually generate new sources of life for and within themselves and their environment – i.e., to re-generate. This work is grounded in a philosophy that humans (and human activities) are not apart from the development and ongoing evolution of such healthy living systems; rather, humans serve a participatory role in their continuing viability and vitality. Through the practice of developing how we are thinking in this way about whole living systems, any project can be leveraged as a highly effective acupuncture point for helping transform community vitality and regenerating life.
There are two interrelated dimensions in this regenerative planning work:
- At its entry level, Regenerative Design is a practice for reversing the systemic decline in living systems and creating the basis for self-renewing socio-ecological vitality.
- Regenerative Development is a continual process that builds the capacity, capability, and will of stakeholders to serve as co-designers and active participants in the continual evolutionary transformation of their unique place.
Regenerative Development and Design comprises a meta-discipline that combines the pattern thinking and practices of Ecological Design, Permaculture, Biophilia, Organizational Psychology, Neuroscience, and Integrative Design.
The purpose of regenerative development and design is to facilitate and guide the evolution of a place toward its highest creative and productive potential in a way that explores its unique nature and capacities (essence), so that planning and design efforts improve the capability of all living systems (including the larger whole-system in which each place is nested) to evolve towards higher levels of vitality and viability indefinitely. Through a series of workshops, participants experience this work through highly interactive engagement and discussion around how building and development can be seen as an instrument for healing, sustaining, and regenerating the community of life in each unique place by re-membering that we play a participatory role in the vitality of the living systems in which we are nested.
The process of working on projects from this whole living-systems perspective shifts the focus of everyone’s attention from simply solving problems and working only on “things” (such as buildings) to seeing any such project as an instrument for working on realizing the highest creative potential of the larger systems in which the project is nested (and inter-dependent). This shift in focus builds an understanding of the particular nature of each unique community/place and the particular reciprocal interrelationships (between human and “natural” systems) that create that uniqueness.
Working in this way awakens a deep and caring sense of place and meaning that becomes transformational by serving as the source of new community spirit and individual Will grounded in what people really care about. Communities all over the world currently engaged in this process are reconciling longstanding deep divisions, improving the quality of life for all inhabitants (all species), and delivering real value to all stakeholders by collaboratively co-creating processes of reciprocal exchange aimed at the health of the whole, not just the pieces.
Origins of 7group
The original seven partners were:
Alan Barak, lawyer and social fundraiser
John Boecker, architect
Scot Horst, materials expert
Tom Keiter, film maker
Andy Lau, engineer, professor, and modeling expert
Marcus Sheffer, energy expert
Brian Toevs, HVAC designer
Prior to forming 7group the original partners brought divergent but complimentary skills and experiences to the partnership.
Alan – was a lawyer by training. He has an amazing ability to be a catalyst and convener to jumpstart worthwhile enterprises. He was actively involved in the central Pennsylvania region in assisting non-profits and institutions by bringing consultants and funding together to promote greener buildings. P.S. – Alan left 7group to become the Assistant Attorney General in Saipan and is currently Assistant General Counsel at the Washington, DC Department of Energy & Environment.
John – had worked in the Harrisburg area for several years as a design architect. Design awards, yatta, yatta.
Scot – was a classically trained opera performer. He also had been designing and making custom furniture for clients in New York City. He formed his own company in 199X making VegTables and establishing his knowledge of green materials. P.S. – Scot was a Senior Vice President at USGBC in charge of the LEED Green Building Rating System and is now the CEO of ARC Skoru.
Tom – had a film making company in State College and worked for a wide range of clients.
Andy – had been working on solar energy and energy efficient buildings since 1977. Andy was a professor of engineering at Penn State Harrisburg and worked on projects with the PEO and on energy modeling of several buildings with EO. P.S. – Andy is an engineering professor at Penn State University Park teaching first-year design and sustainability.
Marcus – has an environmental studies degree and a passion for developing solutions to environmental issues. For 12 years he had worked for the Pennsylvania Energy Office (PEO) and had formed his own energy consulting firm, Energy Opportunities (EO) in 1993. Marcus and Andy had been working together on solar energy and energy efficient buildings since 1984.
Brian – was a former student of Andy’s and had been working in the area doing HVAC design for several years and had his own design firm.
7group Creation Story
On December 12, 1996 a meeting was convened to discuss the possibility of greening the upcoming Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) South Central Regional Office Building (SCROB) in Harrisburg. Alan Barak was promoting green building in the Commonwealth under a grant from the Heinz Endowments. He had a personal connection with the sister of the developer building the project and was able to arrange for the meeting. He then contacted Steve Lee, an architectural professor from Carnegie Mellon University, and Marcus Sheffer, an energy/environmental consultant, to arrange for them to assist him in pitching this new idea to the project team. John Boecker as the project architect was also in attendance. The outcome was only somewhat predictable as greening the project and DEP’s mission were an obvious match. Jim Toothaker was in charge of the project for DEP and his crossed arms during almost the entire meeting clearly displayed his skepticism. However, Jim knew common sense when he heard it and made the visionary call to go green and 7group was born. The project ended up being one of the first 12 LEED Certified projects in the world.
From this origin, additional future partners in 7group worked on the SCROB project including Scot Horst who built furniture and installed green materials in the lobby and Tom Keiter who prepared a video about the project entitled Pennsylvania’s First Green Building. The SCROB project was followed in succession by the PA DEP Cambria Office Building project in Ebensburg, PA. John was once again the project architect, Scot served as the green materials consultant, Tom made another series of videos, Marcus served as the energy consultant and brought in Andy Lau to do the project energy modeling. Andy in turn introduced us to Brian Toevs, a former student of his, who did the building commissioning.
More DEP projects followed and the future 7group partners began working together more and more frequently. Business relationships became personal friendships. Once again serving as a catalyst and convener, Alan brought us together (over a beer at the picnic table in his backyard) and suggested we form a business partnership.
We said why not.