ReGen Villages is a tech-integrated and regenerative residential real estate development company. The Dutch holding company, in collaboration with Danish architecture firm EFFEKT, was founded by serial entrepreneur James Ehrlich, who describes his brand as “engineering and facilitating the development of off-grid, integrated and resilient neighbourhoods that power and feed self-reliant families around the world.”
The model takes a holistic approach, combining innovative technologies that include energy-positive homes, renewable energy and energy storage, door-step high-yield organic food production, vertical farming, aquaponics/aeroponics, water management and waste-to-resource systems.
The first Regen Village is scheduled to open this summer in Almere, The Netherlands, with 100 homes, followed by sites across Northern Europe in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany. Further plans include the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, MENA, Malaysia, India, China, parts of Africa, the U.S. and Canada.
We recently spoke with Ehrlich to learn more about his concept for sustainable community living. First, how scalable is the current model and what’s been the biggest challenge to date?
“ReGen Villages is globally scalable, based on our years of research and now corroborated by the viral spread of our brand and concept that has spread to almost every corner of the planet,” Ehrlich said. “Scaling is not a matter of physics, so therefore anything is possible. Rather, all of the technologies, materials, components and design thinking are already proven, even if many of them have not yet been fully integrated with the others.
“Our greatest challenges will always be with the status quo, where government regulations (national, provincial, municipal) must be addressed with a new kind of forward thinking that puts the planet and people first,” he added. “Then we must compel the traditional real estate development, construction, material and labor conglomerates to look upon our redefinition of residential housing development through a new lens of profit through proliferation of doing things in a better way.”
While ReGen chose Almere for its upper-middleclass potential, the bigger prize is in developing countries as billions migrate from rural communities in search of better living conditions. Half the world’s population lives in cities today and projections are that 2.5 billion people will be moving to cities in the next 50 years.
“Our intent from the very beginning is global scale, and bringing thriving, regenerative and resilient platform design thinking into peri-urban and rural areas where it's frankly needed the most,” Ehrlich said. “With the inclusion of high broadband access into each ReGen Villages, along with other managed services at the neighborhood scale, it is our ambition to encourage families to stay in their local villages, and eventually to attract city dwellers back into these areas, where we believe this is the base case for the future of humanity.”
ReGen Villages says its model “retrofits with local supply of all resources that will lift burdens on struggling municipal governments at both ends of the population spectrum.” We asked Ehrlich to elaborate.
“After the past several years of research, traveling all around the world, we discovered the same exact issues wherever we landed - the rural areas are emptying out and the big cities are overcrowding,” he said. “In the rural areas, the issues are profound in the loss of tax base and even demolition of infrastructure - where usually only elderly, very young and immigrant populations are residing. Conversely, the cities are being over burdened by populations they can't possibly employ, house, power and feed, and deal with the externalaties of these populations falling directly into poverty.
“ReGen Villages is a steam valve to building regenerative and self-reliant small communities around the peri-urban and eventually rural areas that, in the aggregate, will reduce burdens on government through production of clean water, energy, food and waste mitigation.
“ReGen Villages also intends to bring curriculum and other managed services to each community through broadband Internet access, visiting researcher and scholar programs and developing new economic models, eventually - out of innovation labs that teach residents how to start thinking creatively and differently about their own self worth between themselves in community and expressed perhaps outward to the world.”
The company is raising monies from sovereign wealth funds looking to divest from fossil fuels into impact- and knowledge-based investments. ReGen acquires suitable land in collaboration with national and local municipalities and contracts with local architecture, construction and engineering firms to optimize village models to local environs.
We asked Ehrlich if his brand is selling a model or a consciousness – or both?
“Our brand is all about living close to nature in new ways that just make sense,” he told us. “Absolutely we represent a movement - a global subconscious epiphany, if you will - where families want to live in abundance and with agency to healthy and clean food, water, energy and mitigated waste into resources.
“ReGen Villages has hit a very powerful nerve with people who are searching for a better way of life that makes them feel secure in all these areas of regenerative living and more,” he asserted, “to feel connected to each other in multi-generational communities where the cycle of life is celebrated and people know what real hope and joy is all about.”