Cities are the defining ecological phenomenon as they are continuously growing both in area and population while increasing the demand and impact on natural resources. Design has a great potential towards ecological regeneration within and of cities. In this context, an ecosystem services approach may be a comprehensive framework for guiding design processes and practices to achieve the highest ecological performance where multiple ecosystem services are provided within a system. Bringing together ecology, design and project realization requires a transdisciplinary approach. Ecological issues embracing the triple bottom line of sustainability, especially for social equity, vary across the globe in response to place-based characteristics. As a representative case that embraces design in relation to ecology, sustainable, affordable houses located in the U.S. and Brazil are compared for their performance towards ecosystem services provision in respect to energy efficiency solutions. This is a collaborative effort between universities from these two countries, brings together researchers, students, practitioners and community stakeholders, engaging in a process that actively seeks to define relevant questions, accelerates knowledge of solutions and engages and empowers effective solutions. Results outline successful methods and strategies employed in each context and an approach for ongoing, meaningful collaboration.