Stuart Cowan

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Biographical Information

"Stuart is a general partner of Autopoiesis, LLC, which offers design, planning, development, and finance services internationally for large-scale sustainability projects, with a particular emphasis on green real estate development, renewable energy, and biocultural restoration. The firm specializes in building innovative financial models that match market-rate debt and equity with social and environmental investors providing below-market debt and equity, grants, tax credits, carbon credits and other sources. The firm has worked with a wide range of financial institutions, municipalities, state and federal agencies, non-profits, utilities, companies, and religious orders. Current projects include approximately 500MW of wind power development, a $50 million biomass generation facility, large-scale aggregation of urban energy efficiency and solar generation projects, and several large-scale mixed-use projects seeking the coveted World Wildlife Fund One Planet Living endorsement.

"He served as a transaction manager with Portland Family of Funds, an innovative community bank, and played a key role its successful effort to obtain multiple allocations of federal New Markets Tax Credits for the Portland Development Commission and external clients. These allocations have provided critical financial support for the development of numerous landmark projects in Portland, including The Nines Hotel/Macy’s Renovation ($130 million, Silver LEED); The Civic ($100 million, Silver and Gold LEED); The White Stag ($30 million, Gold LEED); 12th & Washington ($140 million, Gold LEED); The Oregon Clinic ($30 million, Gold LEED); and Vanport ($10 million, Gold LEED). He also served on the development team for a variety of projects, including the Gerding Theater ($36 million, Platinum LEED), which is the first Platinum historic renovation and the first Platinum arts building. He played a key role in promoting a triple bottom line investment strategy for Portland Family of Funds and its national affiliate, United Fund Advisors.

"He served as conservation economy research director at Ecotrust, an innovative sustainability non-profit in Portland. He led the development of a comprehensive framework for bioregional sustainability available at This framework provides a fractal integration of patterns of natural, social, and economic capital, and has been used internationally for strategic planning purposes. He also assisted in securing a $50 million allocation of New Markets Tax Credits to an Ecotrust affiliate for long-term ecological forestry management.

"He is the co-author with Sim Van der Ryn of Ecological Design (Island Press, 1996 and 2007), a visionary overview of the integration of ecology and architecture, land-use planning, and product design which was recently reissued in a special 10th-anniversary issue. This book has become a standard reference on sustainable design.

"He received his doctorate in complex living systems from U.C. Berkeley, with a particular emphasis in ecological economics. He has taught ecological design, sustainability, and complex systems at a wide range of universities and institutes, including the Portland State University, the sustainable MBA program at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, U.C. Berkeley, New College of California, and Naropa Institute. He serves on the Board of the Sustasis Foundation and the Regenerative Design Institute."[1]


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  1. Regenerative Design Institute Board, organizational web page, accessed November 7, 2013.