Raising the Bar to Restorative

Green Biz


Net zero. Carbon neutral. Zero impact. Sustainable. These buzzwords and concepts have come to represent the highest levels of innovation within our built and designed environments.

Or have they?

It turns out that they have not, that a new wave of development is pioneering beyond them into the restorative, net positive space.

Restorative development leapfrogs sustainable development’s primary mission of reducing and eliminating detrimental impacts by creating positive results at social, ecological, and economic levels. Examples such as generating a surplus of renewable energy that is delivered back to the grid, returning more clean water to urban or natural systems than is used in operations, growing more trees than are cut down, regenerating degraded habitats, and ‘upcycling’ materials to greater forms and uses all illustrate restorative objectives.

The firm I co-founded in 2013, the Ecala Group, is dedicated to delivering restorative results for urban developments throughout the world. We have created a restorative model that provides the what, why, and how of the pioneering approach. We outline developmental goals through our Restorative City StandardTM, benchmark, measure, and manage projects within our Integrated Value AssessmentTM, and deliver restorative infrastructure and technologies through our Integrated Utility System (IUS) model, a pioneering solution for urban resource management and grid functionality.

We were recently contracted to develop an Integrated Utility System plan for a large urban district in Minneapolis called Prospect North. It is an 80-acre site adjacent to the University of Minnesota that is striving to be a replicable model of 21st century urban living – a city within a city. Our IUS plan identified how energy, water, waste, IT and industrial-scaled food production can be managed in a closed-loop, site-based and restorative manner. Essentially, the IUS will function as a synergistic system of technologies where the waste stream from one process becomes a resource for another, unlocking tremendous amounts of economy and value that are not accessible through conventional resource management strategies. The result of its development will be a zero waste, energy positive, emissions-free, food and freshwater abundant community that will effectively make Prospect North the most advanced urban development in the world.

What makes Prospect North’s IUS plan particularly exciting is its high level of replicability. The design was customized for key site and stakeholders’ needs, while also ensuring that it could serve as a template for other developments throughout the region and world. We’ve found that district-based development is quickly becoming a key strategy for cities to deliver their ecological, social, and economic development goals. When partnered with restorative ambitions, entire regions can be quickly transformed. Ecala is poised to shape and lead this movement well into the future.

Read more by Joshua Foss:

Learn more about these concepts by taking a course:

Joshua Foss will be co-instructing a 15 week course with Krista Leraas this fall entitled, Introduction to Sustainable Design.  It is a fully online course that begins September 2. Registration is open (only a few seats remain!).

Image courtesy of Flickr CC by Neo_II