I tell architects, your project is not the project. Your project is the health of the ecosystem. Why else do we do green buildings?
– Bill Reed
Human development should serve as an instrument for healing and regenerating life
7group began our work over 25 years ago by focusing on how to improve the technical design of green buildings. We developed a keen focus on systems thinking and an integrative process. Along the way we discovered that applying an integrative process to technical systems was not enough. Our focus shifted from seeing buildings as outcomes to working on projects as developmental instruments for achieving larger purposes, i.e., for developing processes aimed at evolving the vitality and viability of the larger systems in which these buildings are nested – in short, for delivering value-adding processes to all key stakeholders. This in turn shifted our aim and direction toward regenerative design and development by working with whole living systems. Through such experiences, we now believe that any project can be leveraged as a highly effective acupuncture point for helping transform community vitality and regenerating life. We seek to help you explore meaningful connections that develop reciprocal interrelationships, so that you can achieve the holistic affects that you are aiming to manifest in the world.
In short, 7group serves to help your project image and then realize its full potential. Through our experienced network of partners and associates, we offer a vast array of services, including regenerative process facilitation, commissioning, video production, energy modeling, daylighting analysis, materials consulting, ecological assessments, the implementation of green building assessment tools, and so much more (click here for a comprehensive list of services). We also offer comprehensive design and construction services for projects that align closely with your and our values and aspirations, through partnerships with local construction firms. One of our particular strengths is helping owners to delineate specific project requirements and identify tangible outcomes by building project teams and their capacity to engage an integrative, regenerative process that achieves effects aligned with a larger purpose beyond designing, constructing and operating buildings. This invites us to conceive your project not as an end point, but a beginning. Our services all share a common aim: they are customized to provide you with the help you need to manifest your particular project in a way that develops its evolving capacity to serve as an instrument for achieving the transformation you seek.
The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building
Our book, published in 2009 with co-author Bill Reed, has been called the definitive guide to the integrative process. It is full of examples from our early projects that revealed the systemic connections between building systems and the larger ecosystems within which these are embedded. The last chapter, Evolving the Field, foreshadowed where we were heading. While our process has expanded since the book was published, the core principles associated with integrative design still apply and inform our work every day as we continue to evolve our thinking.
Understanding that buildings, their components, and their context are nested whole systems, the way to solve interconnected problems without creating new ones is to “solve for pattern”. This is done by discovering the story of each place, and designing not merely to restore ecological functions but to facilitate the ongoing evolution of a place to higher and better functioning. Ultimately, the focus of resources, energy, and attention that comes about when designing and building or renovating a facility becomes an opportunity to transform both the place and the participants, helping both initiate a continuing evolution. If this all sounds like pie-in-the-sky idealism, read a few of the many real-world stories to see the potential. – Nadav Malin, Environmental Building News book review
Visit our Book page for more information.
Re Farm Cafe
The owners came to 7group wanting to build an off-the-grid, LEED certified, farm-to-table restaurant located on a working farm. After engaging a co-discovery process, exploring the owners’ underlying aspirations, the effort shifted to using the process of designing and constructing this farm-to-fork café as a means for building the capacity of all project participants to serve as co-creative agents for affecting systemic local building and fooding practices in the region. Created from the vision and aspirations of the owners and project stakeholders, the project’s purpose expanded and evolved in a way that inspires people to create a stronger connection to the place so they can contribute to its health in a meaningful way through immersive educational experiences. The project team shifted from building a cafe to seeing the project as an instrument for understanding and experiencing how we produce and consume food on diversified, small farms in this place can serve to regenerate life in the community and the lifeshed it serves and beyond. As such, the project team aligned around the following overarching project Purpose:
“To create an intimate, delicious, transparent experience of this particular place (Windswept Farm), in a way that illuminates our connections and how we can strengthen them, so that our daily lives serve as engines for regenerating our communities.”
More information at https://refarmcafe.com/.
Phipps Conservatory Center for Sustainable Landscapes
Phipps is now seeking to develop their understanding of regenerative principles and to align their entire staff around regenerative thinking as foundational to all their programs and operations – core to everything they do, ranging from the food in their café to all their educational offerings, to how energy and water are sourced and generated in their facilities. Phipps’ journey towards this focus began its development through the process they engaged for designing, constructing and operating their buildings and infrastructure. The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) was the organization’s first step implementing an integrative process that was conceived as core to their pursuit of the Living Building Challenge for this project. 7group facilitated this process and helped the project team co-co-create numerous place-sourced design and community workshops; 7group also served as technical consultants. The resulting project is considered one of the most highly revered green building projects in the world. Phipp’s Executive Director, Richard Piacentini, has become a regional and national leader promoting regenerative design and development. He has embraced a developmental mindset, joining 7group as a thinking partner in both his and our work as Change Agents (associated with the work of Carol Sanford). Phipps has continued to innovate and evolve their regenerative capacities through three other building projects (all pursuing the Living Building Challenge) whose process is being facilitated by 7group. Throughout these projects, 7group’s aim has been to help Phipps build their capacity for engaging even deeper regenerative thinking that produce tangible systemic effects, so that Phipps can manifest their vision for the Pittsburgh region and beyond.
More information on the project can be found here.
Here is an article on the application of regenerative principles to the work Phipps does.
At its core, The Willow School embraces each unique student’s joy of learning, based on moral virtues and the wonder of nature, so that each student builds their capacity for make a meaningful contribution to the world. The campus buildings and infrastructure (and their operation) are seen as core experiential elements of that learning. From the beginning of the development of their campus, Willow has embraced an evolving, developmental process for designing and building their facilities, aspiring to higher levels of integration and regeneration with each project. The process began with the creation of a Story of Place® by our colleagues at Regenesis, which served as the basis for developing the campus master plan. Three buildings have been built subsequently with 7group playing a role in the development and facilitation of each project’s design process and technical systems integration. Most recently, the Health, Wellness and Nutrition building achieved full Living Building Challenge certification. In addition to incorporating building systems operations and effects into the curriculum as core learning tools, this latest project has also generated a focus on growing and eating healthy, nutritious food sourced from the student-run gardens surrounding the building and prepared in the teaching kitchen inside. All building systems also are aimed at fully embodying and reflecting the focus on creative, systems thinking capacity that the Willow School seeks to instill in their students.
More information here.
Check out the Living Building Challenge case study.
Hear about Willow in the words of its students.