Pockets and Creases: Digital Fabrication for Biodiversity Regeneration
We are in a climate crisis. Biodiversity is declining, especially in cities, and cities are expanding. We need to shift the way we think about design to prevent further loss of habitat and species. The regulations protecting New Zealand’s biodiversity are not doing their job and regenerative design in its current form focuses on regenerative practices that benefit humans rather than biodiversity. The building industry is ready for change.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is calling for standards and workflows to shape the future of new technology like digital fabrication. Because our future building practices need to reflect our values and needs as a community, this is the perfect opportunity to test whether biodiversity regeneration and environmental impact avoidance could be a standard part of digital fabrication workflows.
Through a series of workflow studies, this thesis investigated how digital workflows could help shift design thinking toward buildings benefitting their ecosystems rather than just benefiting from them. The proposed future workflow builds upon the way that ecologists rebuild habitat through repairing systems, taking inspiration from the more abstract way creatives use digital fabrication when approaching environmental issues.
The outcome of this workflow design process suggested that ecosystem design needs to be part of the design process from the beginning. The environmental systems that support biodiversity must be key in the decision-making process. The alternative is a design outcome where the systems that support biodiversity are not suited to their context and attempts at integration are superficial.
The main barrier to the implementation of ecosystem regeneration in architecture is the sheer complexity of systems and relationships. Ultimately this thesis concludes that if designers begin to adopt digital tools and processes into their workflows, complexity like this can be delegated to the computer. With further research into automation, digital fabrication can easily facilitate the complexity of ecosystem design, leaving the designer free to design the experiential aspects of architecture.