Sustainable architecture and design continue the conversation of minimizing how much of our natural resources are used in building and design projects. Stringent standards for meeting LEED certifications are aimed at ensuring that new construction emits fewer greenhouse gasses. And the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has recently officially stated that ignoring sustainability is unethical, emphasizing, even more, the importance of eco-friendly building.
But it is the nature of design to evolve. We can develop our thinking and evolve our work.
Installing a green roof can reduce energy costs for heating and cooling. Go the extra mile like San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences, where a rooftop field of native wildflowers is the densest of its kind in that city. Not only does the roof contribute more oxygen to the atmosphere, but it’s also added much-needed habitat and food for birds, bees, and butterflies.
And there’s a way to even more efficiently recycle wastewater within a building. Just look at Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre, where both toilet water and the waste within that water are reused, for composting and irrigation respectively. Additionally, deeper water resulting from the building process actually led to a healthier ecosystem in that area.
After all, saving the environment isn’t just good for nature. Science shows that humans need nature too, such as for mental and emotional health. Hygge is a Danish concept popularized by big brands such as IKEA that emphasizes the feeling of comfort we receive from natural elements, especially indoors. That feeling can be promoted by the soft aroma of sweet trees, nature-inspired patterns and textures, and variations of muted earthy tones.
We can also find innovative solutions to various problems, such as how to promote natural healing in a hospital environment like Asplundh Cancer Center at Abington Jefferson Health, via biomimicry of nature. The Cancer Center was even featured in Architect Magazine for its calming forest-evoking features utilizing Bark House birch products. Because what better place to find inspiration than in nature?
Plus, using nature in the design that surrounds us fulfills the natural biophilia, or instinctive love of nature, that all humans possess, resulting in happier, healthier, and more productive members of society.
For example, are you traveling and staying in an Airbnb? Some Airbnb hosts have taken their tiny-home accommodations to the next level by decorating with textured bark wall coverings inside and out. Even an unfamiliar space becomes more comfortable and inviting this way.
Regenerative design has been emerging as a discipline that emphasizes not how to take less from nature, but give back to it and the people living in it in a deeply meaningful way that supports the core essence of all life in a particular place collectively. In regenerative philosophy, designers must think about how a particular building site relates to its geography, history, and community to support the life-enhancing qualities of entire ecosystems.
“Regeneration is not simply about making a landscape and local habitat more productive and healthy,” says Bill Reed, a principal in Integrative Design, Inc. and Regenesis. Both organizations work to bring regenerative design to the forefront of building and community planning. “Effective regeneration requires that we engage the entirety of what makes a place healthy.”
Regenerative design offers an excellent opportunity to integrate products in ways that create regenerative benefits. This connects a regenerative cycle, from the original source of raw materials through the supply chain to the finished project, and beyond.
Sharing a new potential, a multitude of places in the community become energized through a shared vision. Thus, regenerative aspects are connected in a way that they continue to have a developmental benefit for the community beyond their completion. Regenerative design is not an add-on. It is about supporting the best potential for the entire area, expanding a field of developmental benefits.
From the perspective of Bark House, regenerative design involves multi-level stakeholder engagement from landowners to our clients, involving the entirety of our supply-manufacture-sell chain in the consideration of becoming co-creators. That is a core tenet to the regenerative process. It is a whole-inclusive process, with deep consideration to every stakeholder and to nature. It’s the reason so much time is invested in front-end planning. This method activates energy, available throughout the multi-level stakeholder engagement.
If you’re looking for regenerative products, below are nine examples to help inspire you.
Who says technology and nature don’t go together? Parabola Architects used Bark House Poplar Bark Panels at the Google office in Sunnyvale, Calif., to achieve beauty in simplicity and bring the outdoors inside for engineers to enjoy.
Project: Large Tech Company
Architect/Project Lead Designer: Parabola Architects
Design-Build Contractor: Devcon Construction Inc.
Product: Bark House® Poplar Bark Panels
Location: Google office, Sunnyvale, Calif.,
Project Vision: Parabola incorporated regenerative materials through the use of large, monolithic Bark House® bark wall covering that was also a part of the architect’s strategy to achieve a LEED Platinum Certification for the building. According to the Parabola website: “Embodying Google’s design principles of beauty and simplicity, 1212 Bordeaux is designed to inspire and empower Googlers, while supporting the long-term health and vitality of the community and environment.”
You won’t easily forget the luxury space inside the boutique dermatology and plastic surgery clinic of Drs. Noelle Sherber and Ariel Rad of Sherber + Rad. The project has been lauded by both Architectural Record and DC Modern Luxury Magazine, and also won the AIA Virginia/Washington, DC Award of Merit in Commercial Interiors.
Project: Boutique Clinic
Architect/Project Lead Designer: Architect David Jameson, AIA
Design-Build Contractor: General Contractor, Madden CCI, LLC
Product: Bark House® Rough Poplar Bark Panels
Location: Dermatology and plastic surgery clinic of Drs. Noelle Sherber and Ariel Rad of Sherber + Rad, Washington, D.C.
Project Vision: Inspired by the structure of a tree, the interior features a progression of spaces wrapped in materials including rough poplar bark panels and smooth bronze. Some of the bark still has lichen attached or knots where branches used to be, highlighting natural variations in color, texture, and size.
And you can be sure that these poplar panels support sustainable efforts — the bark is the world’s first and only product to have achieved a Cradle to Cradle® Platinum Level Certification (2017 – 2018) Gold (2007 – 2017), a certification awarded for the material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness qualities.
Architectural Record has also featured Carney Logan Burke Architects’ Riverbend residence, which used personalized touches like Bark House’s sanded poplar bark panels inside the home to create “strong connections to the world beyond its walls.”
Product: Bark House® Poplar Bark Panels
Architect: Carney Logan Burke
Custom Millwork: Poliform, Western Woodworks, Brandner Design, Willow Creek Woodworks
Bark House Distributor: Earth Elements
Location: Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Project Vision: From Architectural Record: “In a valley rife with the trappings of National Park–inspired design, the architects [imbued] their work with their own interpretations of what the West has to offer. With the Riverbend Residence, the team has effectively captured this spirit with a straightforward formal solution and restrained use of materials ‘rendered in a palette intended to weather and blend with the environs over time,’” says Logan
Poplar panels are 100% sourced and made in the U.S.
gb&d Magazine highlighted the University of Chicago’s Childcare Center, which uses poplar bark shingles on the exterior and interior of the center, inviting children and adults to come up and experience nature up close.
Project: University Childcare Center
Architect/Project Lead Designer: Larry Kearns, AIA, Principal, Wheeler Kearns Architects
General Contractor: Leopardo Companies
Product: Poplar Bark Shingles, Laminated
Location: University of Chicago, Childcare Center
Project Vision: “This project centers around children. “How best to nurture a child with real things they can touch, feel the texture, the depth, the honesty of the raw material?” said our own Chris McCurry. Kearns agreed, telling gb&d Magazine that people “always want to come up and touch it.”
The LEED Gold-certified Childcare Center has won several awards, including:
Personal expression finds a voice in a West Austin, Texas, home, which complements colder concrete, white macaubas quartzite, and brass hardware with lichen-speckled poplar tree bark. The beautiful harmony of industrial with natural earned this homeowner a feature in Architectural Digest.
Product: Bark House® Poplar Bark Panels and Tiles
Architects: Paul Lamb and Ted Young of Paul Lamb Architects
Interior Designer: Jennifer Vaughn Miller of Vaughn Miller Studio
Builder: Crowell Builders
Location: West Austin, Texas
Project Vision: A key aspect of regenerative design is to support the client to express their authentic voice. This is just what was done for the owner of this home, Suzanne McFayden. “As a black woman and as a divorced woman, I feel like I’m finally carving out room for myself in the world. Doing this house helped me reclaim my voice,” said McFayden, a Jamaican-born writer and philanthropist. The architects injected the space with a mix of unexpected materials, including poplar bark, which is a reclaimed waste product of the logging industry. These materials, in Lamb’s words, “emphasized the raw and evocative power of the concrete shell, sometimes riffing on its roughness, sometimes contrasting it.”
An ultra-modern home in Shenandoah River, Va., uses poplar touches and floor-to-ceiling windows beautifully to connect the interior to the greenery-filled river view outside.
Architect: Reader & Swartz Architects, P.C.
Location: Shenandoah River, VA
Project Vision: Connecting people to nature is a core mission of Bark House. This vision aligned with that of the architect, who designed this home for the client to be able to enjoy the river nearby and spend time with family. Exterior materials consist of wavy edge, horizontal cedar siding, vertical cedar siding, corrugated Corten siding, Bark House® poplar bark shingles (which are a reclaimed waste product of the logging industry), and a standing seam metal roof.
High Life magazine noted that “not only does the menu resonate with a mountain lifestyle, but the remodel does, as well.” A black and white wall covering theme… “instill[s] a reverence of nature’s timeless beauty” and mirrors the area’s beautiful Aspen trees.
Project: Hotel Restaurant
Architect: EDG Design
Location: Aspen, Colo.
Project Vision: The WYLD Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch was designed by EDG Design with a white birch feature wall to mirror the aspen trees that fill the forests of, well, Aspen. White birch was used as a protective measure because aspen are noted by the USDA to be on the decline, a phenomenon known as “sudden aspen decline” (SAD).
Project: Retail Storefront
Architect: BKA Architecture and Interiors
Location: Albany, N.Y.
Project Vision: Visitors to the mall appreciate a fresh, natural look for the mall, with employees noting that people do a double-take to see if it’s real. “Each store is rooted in the original mission to be a community hub where people could learn and discuss the physical aspects of healthy living from yoga and diet to running and cycling as well as the mental aspects of living a powerful life of possibilities,” says the Lululemon website. Indeed, the white birch panels help bring the outdoors inside and foster greater health, not only among Lululemon clientele, but all visitors to the mall.
Being indoors feels like a walk through the forest.
Architect: Rich Graves, Principle Architect, Altius Design Group,
Builder: Malmquist Construction
Designer: Barb Cooke, Owner, Velvet Leaf Studio
Product: Bark House® White Pine Bark Wall Treatment
Location: Whitefish, Mont.
Project Vision: This private residence in Whitefish, Mont., features Bark House White Pine Bark Wall Treatment, used to pull the surrounding sky, mountains, and view of the local town flow into the interior and vice versa. Cooke then pulled everything together and made the interior flow to the exterior. White Pine is also available as a Rough Pine and Rough Pine Sanded & Lacquered bark wall covering.
This project reflects a Whole-Building™ philosophy, mobilizing investment in the built environment to improve the health and vitality of communities and nature to create whole-communities.
Designers, architects, builders, manufacturers and customers all have a role to play in creating stunning environments that support the life-enhancing qualities of ecosystems and are grounded in regenerative design. If you’re inspired by the examples above and want to use natural wood wall treatments and products that are 100% sourced and made in the USA with renewable energy, contact Bark House.
"Quality is not a goal here… It’s a way of life."