When it comes to regenerative design, it’s not just where we make but also where we take that matters.

For the last two decades, engineers (and other humans) have become more conscious of reducing their impact. Of how energy efficient our buildings are. Of reducing pollution from our sites into the surrounding environment.

These are ways of reducing our impact where we build buildings and infrastructure. In the places where we make.

And there are ways where we try to go beyond reducing our impact to making things better. For instance, cleaning up industrial land when we convert it to a new purpose. Or putting green roofs on structures that contribute to an increase in the insect population on site (a process which is called biodiversity net-gain, but which should probably called creating more life). These are positive enhancements in the places where we make.

But if we really want the world to get better when we design and when we build, we need to think about the impacts of our design decisions on our supply chain. On the places where our materials come from – the mines, the fields, the seas. We need to think about the communities of people who are doing this supply. And all the people and places that get touched by our decisions along the way – the logistics centres, the processes of assembly.

In other words, not just the places where we make but also where we take. Because it doesn’t matter if you put a green roof on your structure if along the way the production of the materials for your project led to ten times the habitat loss. It doesn’t matter if you have built a wonderful home if the supply chain has contributed to tearing up communities elsewhere.

The regenerative designer seeks to bring both these places into view during the design process.

So that things get better not just in the places where we make but also where we take.

If we can think about not just where we make but also where we take, we start to see these two places as not separate, but as part of one interconnected whole. Then our decisions can be guided by what makes this whole system richer.

The Regenerative Structural Engineer, by Oliver Broadbent and James Norman, is out now, available in print and PDF from the IStructE website.