The emerging field of regenerative development and design marks a significant evolution in the concept and application of sustainability. Practices in sustainable or green design have typically focused on minimizing damage to the environment and human health. Advocates of a living, whole, and regenerative approach believe a much more deeply integrated strategy for the design and construction of buildings and human settlements is needed. Regenerative approaches seek not only to reverse the degeneration of the earth's natural systems, but also to engage and inspire human systems that can co-evolve with natural systems in a way that generates mutual benefits and greater overall expression of life and resilience. This groundbreaking course will delve deeply into the theory and practice of activating human and natural system co-evolution. Students will draw inspiration from the ability of natural living systems to self-organize to higher levels of complexity and exchange, and learn to apply that understanding as a means to redefine how we think about and design for the built environment, the social and ecological aspect of community, and the role of design.

Course start time: Sunday, 5pm
Course end time: Friday, 5pm



  • Competency Level: Intermediate to Professional
  • Sterling College credits: 2 Continuing Education Units ($260 additional)

Course Purpose

To help participants learn how to see and begin to work with the uniqueness of places through the exploration and understanding of interrelationships and patterns of life in each place,

In a way that reveals the essential socio-ecological, living system connections

So that we can link human development with that the broader communities as we grow and evolve together


Course Objectives

  • Develop an understanding of the importance of working systemically and  holistically with the patterns of place.
  • Develop a basic understanding of a process that participants can use to perceive interrelationships and patterns of systems and places.
  • Provide participants with the means to begin developing their capacity for using this pattern recognition as an essential tool for improving the health of their projects, their work, and their communities.


Sunday Evening -  (7:00-9:00)

7:00 Introductions

  • Purpose of the Course
  • Overview of the regenerative design & development process
  • Its importance, and its effects.

7:45 Implications of the Anthropocene

  • Worldviews/paradigms, the emergence of dualism, the shift back to wholeness

8:15 New ways of thinking and being – social, ecological and professional paradigms

  • Technical System Thinking and Design (Mechanical worldview)
  • Living System Thinking and Design
  • Regenerative Design and Development - A Whole and Living System Process
  • Case Studies


  • Reading
  • Reflection: Beliefs, Philosophy, and Principles about human role on the planet?
  • Daily Journal Writing


Monday -  (9:00 – 9:00)

9:00 Overview of the regenerative design & development process (continued)

  • Systems
    • Fragmentation vs. Wholeness
    • Working with problems vs. working with potential
    • Purpose of a System
    • Net positive AND Value-adding Processes
  • EXERCISE: Nested Systems and Value-adding processes

11:00 Human Role in Nature

  • Pattern recognition (physical/functional) and nested systems
    • Social / Cultural / Human System Patterns
  • Essence pattern recognition (next level: relational/being)
  • Process "map" for implementing regenerative design & development
  • Harmonizing complexity – law of three

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Outdoor observation skills exercise

2:00 Outdoor pattern recognition skills exercises

  • Exercise Comparison of places in the Valley
  • Exercise: Observation of relationships and patterns

5:30 Break and Dinner

7:00 Reflections and documentation of discoveries


  • Reading reflection
  • Purpose exercise
  • Daily Journal Writing


(9:00 – 9:00)

9:00 Essence patterns overview: identify necessary fieldwork and research teams (changes - what, when, why occurred)

  • Biological/habitat patterns (mapping, watersheds, geology, soils, hydrology, flora, etc.)
  • Landscape structural patterns (built environment/infrastructure patterns)
  • Social and cultural/historical patterns
  • Client essence

11:00 ESTABLISH ASSIGNMENT: organize small group fieldwork and online research

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Small group field work continued - outer boundaries driving tour

4:30 Break and Dinner

7:00 Reflections and documentation of discoveries 

Time for Reading and Journal Writing

(9:00 – 8:00)

9:00 Reflection and Essence patterns discussion 
Identification of additional fieldwork 

10:00 Small group fieldwork continued

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Small group fieldwork continued

4:00 Documentation of discoveries 

5:30 Break and Dinner

7:00 Integrative Design

  • EXERCISE: Purpose and Task Cycle – to be applied to your current or next project in the “real world”

Time for Reading and Journal Writing


(9:00 – 8:00)

9:00 Reflections and assimilation of patterns being observed
Essence patterns (relationships) and site energies (flows) discussion - large and small scale (site and valley)

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Team process design and pattern discovery design sketches and documentation (including narrative)

  • EXERCISE: Designing the Design Process

4:30 Break and Dinner

7:00 First iteration design review 

  • Reflections and documentation of discoveries
  • Implementing the design process


(9:00 – 5:00)

9:00 Team design sketches and process documentation 

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Design Presentations 

3:30 Application to your future work

4:30 Wrap Up and conclusions



Reading the Forested Landscape. Tom Wessels (is a book you will want to bring to class with you - either read beforehand or consult in the evenings as we study)

Being Nature's Mind, Indigenous Ways of Knowing. Zimmerman

Designing for Hope, Du Plessis and Hes, December 2014

Living Systems, the Internet and Human Future. Speech by Elisabet Sahtouris

Gift of Good Land (Chapter 9, Solving for Pattern). Wendell Berry

Patterning as Process. Marvick and Murphy

Entering this land, a history of Knoll Farm. This can be ordered online from Center for Whole Communities' website.

Designing from Place. Pamela Mang and Bill Reed. 

Sustainability to Regeneration, Bill Reed

The Web of Life. Fritjof Capra


Suggested Reading

The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building. 7group and Reed

Regenerative Design (Chapters 1 and 2). Lyle

Tending the Wild. M. Kat Anderson

Ecological Design. van der Ryn, and Cowan

Start Date: May 15, 2016
Duration: 5 Days
Tuition: $875