Over the last two days I welcomed into my classroom 500 new students. They are new to University, and teaching first years is also new to me. I have a feeling of great anticipation and excitement, mingled with that fear that maybe in all my planning I have missed something (which was almost borne out, when a student approached me to tell me they had a different lecture in the same room as I was about to meet 250 of my students for the same time – a moment of panic – which fortunately passed when I discovered their lecture was actually a fortnight away).
Just as I start the new term, I am also coming to the end of book writing. What is the best word to describe the feeling of dread and hope? The sense of joy and grief? The moment of coming and going? Beginnings and endings? I guess change best describes the moment in which I sit but somehow change doesn’t capture the tension and conflict. The fear and the loss and the new opportunities ahead.
At the same time, once again, the sense of enormity of the change ahead grabs me. I listened to a recent episode of “From what if to what next” which remind me of the urgency of the need to change. That we need to hit absolute zero by 2040 if we are to have any chance of only seeing 1.5°C temperature rise. I am also reading Doughnut for Urban Development – which looks at how we apply the principles of donut economics to the built environment. There is lots to enjoy, but when it comes to looking at our remaining carbon budget and how we may justly apply this the amount more developed economies have left for building new houses (based on a study of Denmark, but I don’t imagine the values are hugely different for other economies) leaves me wondering “how on earth can we do this?”
And then I remember I am writing a book on regenerative design. And whilst the book is not framed to answer the above questions directly, or provide solutions to dangerous delays in carbon reduction, it does challenge us to think differently about design. Very differently, the kind of differently which might just mean that we can make the change that we need to make. And I feel a small but palpable sense of hope.
But even this is a mixed feeling for me, you see this week we sent to the publisher revision 4 of the book, having made the minor corrections, or decided not to because of all sorts of valid reasons. And that marks the end of writing the book, and we move into the editing and reviewing layouts phase.
But it also marks the end of what has been an incredibly creative and enjoyable experience. I have loved meeting regularly with Oli, my co-author. I have loved picking him up when he feels overwhelmed by the task of writing and being picked up when I feel the same. I have loved meeting for coffees and debating, disagreeing, and wrestling with topics. I have loved how we challenged ourselves to write in different physical environments. From woodlands to industrial estates. And I have loved watching the book mature. I am grateful for where we have managed to take the book. But I am also sad to think we are now approaching the end of this journey.
And so, as I say, lots of emotion, which come to think of it, is often the way as you bring a book to a close. Often when reading a book you adore there is a mixed sense of joy and sadness, but even more so when writing a book.
And now that we are approaching the end there are small but important tasks to do. One of which is to write a précis for the book, so that hopefully people decide to read it. I have just written the précis. Or the first draft for the précis. I would love to know how to make it even better – is it too negative to start with sustainability? Does it make any sense? Too much jargon? Version one is below, let me know your thoughts in the comments 🙂
“Sustainable design asks how we can design whilst aiming to do no harm. Unfortunately when we don’t reach that aim, we end up doing harm. Regenerative design asks a different question. How can we design in a way that increases bio-diversity, reduces carbon and leads to flourishing communities. In short how can we design so that people and the ecosystems that support them thrive. In this book we explore how, as structural engineers, we can bring about change. Using creative metaphors and case studies we explain:
- How engineers can change their practice now to create a regenerative future.
- We explore the different levels of change, from individual projects to the culture of our industry.
- We look at how we can learn from living systems.
- We explore how, by considering not just our site, but the whole supply and waste chain we can reimagine our impact, both positive and negative.
The book is a creative call for radical change encouraging engineers, and anyone else involved in the built environment, to think and design differently, to do more good.”
 Episode 79 – What if sport could accelerate the shift to a low carbon future?
 The book is available for free here – https://www.home.earth/doughnut – and the section I am referring to is page 57-61 of the PDF (the pages are numbered differently in the physical copy, which is a lovely artefact if you are interested)