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24 July 2017

Problem or Potential? Evolving NZ Design for a Thriving Future

Like most people, I'm not so enthusiastic about sorting out problems — especially those of other people. Our industry culture is all about training us for problem solving, but the challenge is this literally means 1) fixing stuff that's broken and 2) entails shrinking the problem to make it easier to solve, ie ignoring the social and ecological opportunities. This isn't very motivating, and is the opposite of how our living system has worked for the last 3.8 billion years. Life focuses on the 'potential' or the ability to evolve its capability and capacity for more life.

Our current social paradigm, say for transportation or building/infrastructure, focuses on the problem of moving or sheltering people. No matter how 'green' or low impact we make them, these solutions have a powerful tendency to degrade the social and living systems in which they are nested — they simply aim to minimise harm. Currently our life support systems are toast. If we want to thrive in this country we need to evolve and steward the potential of our nature to be abundantly healthy and productive.  It is the only course that leads to the continuation and wellbeing of our future generations.

The recent full 'Living' Certification of Tuhoe's Kura Whare (School House) in Taneatua, Bay of Plenty demonstrates that when we are determined to work with potential, NZ Aotearoa can achieve incredible performance outcomes and regenerate our communities and natural systems. Tuhoe aimed to ensure theirs can thrive indefinitely. As only the fifteenth Certified Living Building Challenge building in the world, this Jasmax designed project has created a wave of change in the NZ design and construction sector through hundreds of conversations asking 'what does good look like?' Tuhoe themselves have continued to work with the principles of non-toxic energy and water along with zero waste construction, whilst upskilling their people and valuing and regenerating their natural resources.

I'm optimistic. There is a bubble of enthusiasm as project teams around NZ work on living housing, education, commercial, infrastructure and civic projects to realise more positive potential that will help us thrive here. Check out and visit the Sustainable Coastlines Living Flagship Education Centre at the Wynyard Quarter, Auckland which is educating thousands of people. It was built using over 80% reused and waste materials and engaged prisoners to 'prefabricate' the building to offer motivation and rehabilitation. The Declare NZ eco-label programme for non-toxic building materials is up and growing to make selections easier. Living Building projects are multiplying and people are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel — as we embrace living systems potential, we can thrive in our future.

Want to know more?

The Creating Living Buildings short course for clients, engineers, architects, consultants and product suppliers offers rich dialogue and systems thinking to deepen your effectiveness. The course runs August 23 & 24 in Auckland and 15 & 16 August in Christchurch. Contact me for more info.

The Ever the Land video introduces the Tuhoe Whare Kura project.

Declare eco-label for non-toxic building products — specifiers and manufacturers can contact us here.

Written by Jerome Partington, JASMAX.

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