Without the virtually free services of nature like clean air and water, humans would not last long. Natural systems can be incorporated in existing urban structures or spaces to add public amenity, mitigate the heat island effect, reduce pollution, add oxygen, and ensure water, electricity and food security in urban areas. Th ere are many eco-solutions that could radically reduce resource consumption and pollution and even provide surplus ecosystem services in the built environment at little or no operational cost, if adequately supported by design. Th is paper is the fi rst of a two part paper that explains what eco-services are, then provides examples of how design can generate natural as well as social capital. Using examples of actual and notional solutions, both papers set out to challenge designers to ‘think again’, and invent ways of creating net positive environmental gains through built environment design.