Maibritt Pedersen Zari

Dr Maibritt Pedersen Zari profile picture

Senior Lecturer School of Architecture


Teaching in 2018

Research interests

Sustainable architecture, biomimicry, wellbeing, regenerative development, climate change


PhD Victoria University, BDes (Interior Architecture), Victoria University.

Research Interests

My current research interests include:

  • biomimicry and ecology in relation to architectural design
  • climate change impacts on the built environment and adaptation measures
  • biophilia, wellbeing and psychological aspects of sustainability and architectural design
  • regenerative development and design
  • social justice issues in relation to architectural and urban design.

Research platform

My published work represents the beginnings of a body of research seeking to redefine sustainable architecture through mimicking ecosystems, changing goals from sustainable to regenerative development, and integrating complex social factors into sustainable architectural design. These ideas are encapsulated in my recently published PhD thesis: Ecosystem services analysis for the design of regenerative urban built environments .

Selected research publications

Links to these publications can be found here.

  • Pedersen Zari, M. 2012.Ecosystem Services Analysis for the Design of Regenerative Urban Built Environments. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Pedersen Zari, M. (2012). Ecosystem services analysis for the design of regenerative built environments. Building Research & Information (BRI). 40(1) 54-64. This was an invited contribution to a special issue of BRI. The research is significant because it argues for a quantifiable approach to regenerative design that can mitigate the causes of climate change while adapting to its impacts and addressing biodiversity loss concurrently. The potential for understanding and then mimicking ecosystem services was explored for setting goals for regenerative developments, designing them and measuring their successes or failures as they evolve over time. Key leverage points were identified where the systems of the built environment could be changed in order to move towards a regenerative urban environment.
  • Pedersen Zari, M. (2010). Biomimetic design for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Architectural Science Review (ASR). 53(2) 172-183.
    This paper forms part of a continuum of research linking biomimicry with preparing buildings for climate change that began with a conference paper and presentation at the SB08 conference in Melbourne, Australia. Based upon the merit of that presentation, the editor of the Architectural Science Review journal invited me to further develop the research in the form of a journal article. The research itself is significant because it presents a different way to understand which kinds of biomimicry are or are not useful in relation to addressing climate change impacts. In light of the conclusions reached during the course of the research, a long-term biomimetic solution was proposed that mimics ecosystems and utilises synergies between mitigation and adaptation strategies in relation to climate change.
  • Pedersen Zari, M. & Jenkins, S. (2010). Redefining cutting edge sustainable design: From eco-efficiency to regenerative development. Paper presented at the Sustainable Building Conference (SB10). Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Pedersen Zari, M T G. (2009). Changes in climate driving changes in architectural education. ARCC Journal, 6, 1.
    This paper forms part of a continuum of research linking architectural education with environmental issues that began with a conference presentation in Madison in 2007 at the Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) Conference on Deconstruction, Building Materials Reuse, and Construction and Demolition Recycling. The editors of the ARCC journal invited me to contribute to a special research theme issue on Affecting Change in Architectural Education as a result. It is significant because it illustrates how environmental issues such as climate change are influencing architectural education rather than how education can simply take account of such issues.
  • Pedersen Zari, M T G., & Jenkin, S. (2009). Rethinking our built environments: Towards a sustainable future (pp. 55). Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand Government. Wellington, New Zealand.
    This was a research report commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment and was published for use in the public domain. The substantial report is 55 pages in length (18 724 words) and was subject to peer review by 2 international specialists and 2 local experts. The research is significant because it relates new international concepts on sustainability, eco-effectiveness and regenerative design to the specific New Zealand built environment context. It aims to clarify the various different methods, while deducing which may be the most beneficial to follow as a strategy for future policy direction on sustainable built environments in New Zealand. This document relates to the earlier cabinet paper I produced in 2008.
  • Pedersen Zari, M T G. (2009). Towards a sustainable future: adopting a regenerative approach to development. (pp. 19). Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand Government. Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Pedersen Zari, M. (2009). An architectural love of the living: Bio-inspired design in the pursuit of ecological regeneration and psychological wellbeing. Sustainable Development and Planning IV. Ins by Brebbia, C. et al (Eds). (pp. 293-302). WIT Press. Southhampton, United Kingdom.
  • Pedersen Zari, M T G. (2008). Inspiration from the Living World. A Deeper Shade of Green. Bernhardt, J. (Eds). (pp. 165-166). Balasoglou Books. Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Couchman, A., Quenneville, P., Hill, D., Wood Huddart, A., Gromm, P., & Pedersen Zari, M T G. (2008). New Zealand as a Test Bed: Leading the World beyond Sustainable Built Environments. [Discussion Paper for Cabinet]. New Zealand Government. Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Pedersen Zari, M T G. (2008). Bio-inspired architectural design to adapt to climate change. Proceedings of the 2008 World Sustainable Building Conference. In by Foliente, G. et al (Eds). (pp. 1-8). SB08 World Conference. Melbourne, Australia.
  • Pedersen Zari, M T G. (2008). Neutralising a Faculty: Victoria University's carbon neutral Faculty of Architecture and Design. Proceedings of the 2008 World Sustainable Building Conference. Foliente, G. et al (Eds). (pp. 1-8). SB08 World Conference. Melbourne, Australia.

Full list of research publications

Research partnerships and collaborative work

  • Patterns in Nature Project: An international collaboration of professionals seeking to ‘capture recurrent solutions from nature that would be of value to designers developing efficient, effective and sustainable solutions.’
  • International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction: Task Group 39 – Deconstruction (2003-2005)
  • Concept development of the 'Plant Room' regenerative architecture system concept for the Wellington SHaC team in association with Amanda Yates of Massey University. I participated from the beginning of the project in 2007 until mid-2008. This was a collaboration between Victoria University, Massey University and Weltec to produce a competition entry for the nationwide SHaC competition (Sustainable Habitat Competition). I was listed as one of the 'Design Development' team members for the project. It won a 'Commended Prize for Vision' award.

Research-related fellowships, prizes and awards

  • Runner up 2008 Zonta Building Research Award. This is a highly contested and prestigious award for female PhD students in the field of building research.
  • 2007: $5000 NZ Post Graduate Study Abroad Scholarship. This enabled participation in an international course in biomimicry in Costa Rica, run by the Biomimicry Institute in North America. Participation was by selection and was limited to 19 designers and architectures from around the world.
  • 2007: $5000 Building Research Scholarship to investigate biomimicry as a relevant tool in addressing climate change in the New Zealand built environment. This enabled participation in several conferences in North America, and provided for an interview series to be conducted.
  • Invitation to take part in an exchange to the University of British Columbia, to study with Professor Ray Cole in 2007. This involved flights and accommodation being provided.

Research Led teaching

I teach in two different areas in the School of Architecture. I teach within the sustainable architecture stream and also as a studio coordinator and lecturer in the Interior Architecture Programme.

My teaching in the area of sustainability encourages students to see buildings as parts of wider systems including physical, cultural and climatic contexts over time rather than as separate and disconnected units. Students are encouraged to engage in projects that explore how they could create or participate in new and retrofitted existing built environments that are potentially regenerative (able to produce beneficial ecological and social results), rather than to focus on simply reducing negative environmental impacts or adding technologies to buildings. My understanding of sustainability is that issues of social and community wellbeing are indivisible aspects of ecological health and that the two are intertwined.

Robert PaulinJenneke KurtzNatacha Sanguinetti

Robert Paulin, 2012 (left), Jenneke Kurtz, 2012 (center), Natsacha Sanguinetti, 2012 (right).

As part of my on-going research, biomimicry in a built environment context is a focus of some of my teaching. Students are encouraged to learn about how ecosystems work to make changes to an overall building system before engaging with organism level biomimicry.

Natacha SanguinettiIvy LlaneraCatilin Wilson

Natacha Sanguinetti, 2012 (left), Ivy Llanera, 2012 (center), Catilin Wilson, 2012 (right).

This journal paper discusses some of my teaching philosophy ideas in relation to sustainability and gives examples of student projects and work (see page 6). Other examples of student work from my sustainability courses can be found here. Some students were invited to be interviewed on the National 'Good Morning' television programme to discuss work produced in one of my courses. A clip of the show can be found here.

In the Interior Architecture programme I have taught both second year and third year studio courses. Students are asked to take a critical thinking approach to design and through the projects set are tasked with engaging in a variety of social and ecological issues. Examples of projects include temporary and portable designs for climate refugees or people recovering from natural disasters. I teach the Retail Architecture course where students engage with contemporary responses to the marketplace including pop-up stores, exhibition and travelling projects, through to traditional fixed shop design. This studio is combined with a technology stream in sustainability where students are encouraged to integrate issues of ecological and community health into their designs.

A developing research stream for me is understanding the architectural and urban responses to historic and contemporary cultural contexts of various parts of Asia, specifically Tibet, Mongolia, Nepal, and Northern India. At the end of 2011 I led a group of 32 students from across the faculty to Tibet and Nepal for a 6 week international field trip.

Milly Howey

Milly Howey, 2011 (left)

Postgraduate Thesis Examination

Postgraduate Supervision

  • 2010: Co-supervisor of honours student Nick Griffin's thesis '25mm. A Hydrological Opportunity'. This was the best final year project of 2010 for Landscape Architecture (Victoria University of Wellington) and a Benson and Cooper Award for Sustainability prize.
  • 2009: Supervision of four honours (4th year) students to completion and production of theses / research reports.
    • Andrew Raynes: A heart like no other: A regenerative city centre for New Plymouth by 2049.
    • Bohan Lin: The sustainable remediation of contaminated sites.
    • Ida Ibrahim: Well-being in the built environment.
    • Manuel Muehlbauer: Computational implementation of biomimetic principles in structural design. Victoria University of Wellington
  • 2008: Supervision of three honours (4th year) students to completion and production of theses / research reports.
    • Annabel Smart: Analysis of the Framework for Biomimicry.
    • William Hoogeveen: Fractal Architecture: A Biophilic Analysis of Aro Street.
    • Harriet Oswald: Intersections between Biomimicry and Biophilia. Victoria University of Wellington

Exhibition Curation

exhibtion curation

  • 2012: International Field Trips of 2011 exhibition. This showcased student work and images from a student field trip to Rome in June of 2011 and a trip to Tibetan and Nepal in November and December of 2011. Held at the Faculty of Architecture and Design.
  • 2010: Co-curator of the pop-up exhibition of third year interior architecture work exploring retail ideas for First Light (VUW's entry into the Solar Decathlon competition in Washington 2011). This was held in a vacant retail space in Wellington's CBD to showcase student work in a public and accessible forum.

exhibition curation

  • 2006 to 2010: VUW School of Architecture Closing the Loops exhibition of Sustainable Architecture student work. $2000 funding was secured each year from Industry (Winstone Wallboards, Zerowaste NZ, WasteMINZ) to put the exhibition and opening night on. Ministers, Members of Parliament and Mayors opened the exhibition in different years. Several hundred professionals attended the opening nights. Held at the Faculty of Architecture and Design. Student work can be seen here.

Academic Service

Participation in academic committees

  • Victoria University School of Architecture Research Committee. 2010 to 2012.
  • Victoria University Environmental Committee. Faculty of Architecture and Design representative. 2007-2011.

Participation in editorial boards and refereeing

  • International Scientific Committee of the Sustainable Building Conference (SB13) to be held in Vancouver, Canada in June 2013. This is a blind peer reviewed conference organised by the Canada Green Building Council and the University of British Columbia in association with the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction.
  • International Scientific Committee of the 1st International Conference on Building Sustainability (BSA) held in Portugal in May 2012. Other members of the Scientific Committee include researchers of the highest international standing in the field. It was a blind peer reviewed conference organised by the Greenlines Institute for Sustainable Development and the University of Minho.
  • Building Research and Information (BRI) Journal. 2011. Invited Peer Reviewer. The BRI journal is a top ranked building research journal.
  • Architectural Science Review (ASR) Journal. 2010. Invited Peer Reviewer. The ASR is an international double-blind peer refereed journal and is ranked as an A* grade journal (Excellence in Research for Australia).

Invitations to provide conference addresses

  • Invited speaker to the `Regenerative Design and Development Workshop', Liu Centre for Global Studies, University of British Columbia. 2011. This was an invitation only gathering of highly regarded international experts in the field of regenerative design in preparation for the publication of the 2012 special issue of the UK based journal Building Research and Information.

Service to the School and Faculty

benson cooper award

  • Coordinator of the Benson Cooper Awards for Sustainability 2009 and 2010. This competition explores the potential of creative design and technical expertise to advance compelling solutions for sustainability. A series of 6 prizes totalling $6600 were awarded across disciplines in the School of Architecture.
  • Project Manager Faculty of Architecture and Design carboNZero initiative 2008. The Faculty participated in the Landcare Research programme and in June 2008 was the first such Faculty to achieve carboNZero, or any other carbon neutral certification in the world (for the period 2008/2009 only). News of the initiative was published in 'University World News', issue 34 by J. Gerritsen in June 2008.

Community Service

  • The Kaitiakitanga Network (Auckland) 2011: Invitation to be on two panels of experts discussing biomimicry innovation (youth perspective & designer perspective) at a biomimicry workshop and speaker series held when international expert Norbert Hoeller visited NZ. I also led a field trip for a public 'family learning event' at the Maritime Museum, Auckland. A DVD series of the discussions and activities was published after the event through Te Kura Toitu o Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi.
  • The Sustainability Trust 2005-2009: Board member and holder of the Built Environment Portfolio. The Sustainability Trust is a Wellington based trust which supports local communities in addressing sustainability related issues, particularly in the areas of energy efficiency, waste minimisation, transport, climate change and community.
  • Sustainability Trust Winter Workshop Series 2006: Invitation to lead two public workshops: 'Shared Living and Community Connections' (co-run by Alex Hills) and 'How to Build or Buy and Eco-Friendly Home' (co-run by Alex Grieg and Alex Hills).



Teaching in 2018