Over the years biomimicry has established itself in different fields of design. From product designs to built environments, biomimicry has allowed designers to adopt as well as to adapt the various innovative solutions present in nature to their creations. It has provided blueprints, procedures, and strategies to draw inspiration from and tackle issues that currently plague the world. Structures such as Eden Project by Grimshaw Architects, Eastgate Centre by Mick Pearce, Gherkin by Foster + Partners, etc. are stunning examples that demonstrate how biomimetic solutions can result in efficient, high quality as well as sustainable buildings. A necessity to learn from the basic principles of nature arises now more than ever as climate change and resource depletion is causing a strain on the environment. To help understand what designing with biomimicry requires, here are 10 things to remember when designing with biomimicry.

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  1. The Biomimicry Institute defines “Biomimicry/ biomimetic as an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.”

There is often a misconception that biomimicry means replicating the mere form of a species in nature. However, it looks beyond the form and mimics the processes, strategies, and models present in nature to develop innovative solutions to human problems.

  1. Nature can provide a vast set of factors to draw inspiration from. The 3.8 billion years of experience it has can provide numerous solutions to complex problems. To gain a better sense of direction and create a successful biomimetic design, the Biomimicry Design Spiral can be used as a tool to learn the steps that will help aid the process of design.
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  1. The natural world is considered sustainable as it reuses and recycles resources efficiently and continuously. Most technology, as well as lifestyles adopted by the human population, is unsustainable. Our actions have resulted in permanent damage or depletion of resources over a large span. Hence, a biomimetic approach should always take into consideration nature’s sustainability.
  2. Janine M. Benyus, author of the book “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.” believes that designers should follow environmental ethics. For example, creating a solar-powered vehicle drafted after the movement of a crab might be spectacular. However, she says that it loses its credibility if it’s primarily used to cut down trees or serve as a weapons platform.
  3. Benyus also stresses on nine laws of nature that should be considered for any biomimetic design. These are:

 

  1. Nature runs on sunlight
  2. Nature uses only the energy it needs
  3. Energy fits form to function
  4. Energy recycles everything
  5. Nature rewards cooperation
  6. Nature banks on diversity
  7. Nature demands local expertise
  8. Nature curbs excess from within
  9. Nature taps the power of limits
  10. Life on Earth can be considered an embodiment of resilience. Learning how nature instills resilience into its systems and its ability to adapt to change can help create structures that are resilient to change and disturbances. For example, self-healing concrete contains bacteria that grow into the cracks and releases calcium carbonate as a waste product which in turn fills up the crack. The combination of biomimicry i.e. mimicking the self-healing process of an organism as well as the usage of an organism i.e. the bacteria helped create a material that could contribute to improving the resilience of concrete structures.
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  1. The ability of nature to accomplish multiple needs with single gestures must be studied thoroughly while designing. The study’s non-existence of single-purpose tools in nature can open a wide range of multidisciplinary and multidimensional projects which in turn can reduce the cost of innovation while stimulating positive externalities.
  2. There are several ecosystems of organisms that break down complex molecules into simpler ones that can be reassembled into new materials. Nature upcycles more often than not and the loop is not direct. The life span of the materials and how it can be recycled must be considered carefully while designing with biomimicry as it contributes to ecological sustainability.
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  1. While designing, understanding the context and its climatic conditions play a key role in achieving smart and efficient structures. Rather than fighting against the context and utilizing energy as well as resources to contain nature, leveraging cyclic processes into projects can help attain challenging standards while minimizing additional costs. For example, the transparent photovoltaic roof glazing at the Community Healthcare Campus at the BRE Innovation Park converts sunlight into electricity. The material is based on organic polymers and can act as a low-cost replacement for standard glass in windows.
  2. Establishing collaborative synergies is an aspect that must be considered while designing with nature. By rethinking the built environment as a nested system that consists of smaller systems while being part of part larger ones can cultivate relationships that save resources, energy, and cost.
Arathi Biju
Author

With a notebook and pen in her bag and an arsenal of questions in her mind, Arathi Biju has always had a keen interest in telling a story. Currently pursuing her degree in architecture, she has always been a strong advocate of expression be it through art, architecture or words.

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