The built environment is accountable for global environmental and social problems due to a large amount of waste generation, material, and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, which are a part of human habitats that they have created for themselves. In such a scenario learning and seeking knowledge from nature is a step toward saving environmental degradation. Biomimetic architecture is a contemporary approach towards sustainable design, not by philosophy governing those forms. It is a part of a study known as biomimicry, which involves critical analysis of nature and its process to gain inspiration and device solutions to human problems.
Following the philosophy of science writer Janine Benyus “The more our world functions like the natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours, but not ours alone”, many famous architects like Neri Oxman, Norman Foster, Mick Pearce have derived inspiration from nature to achieve greater efficiency and comfort in their designs by integrating biomimetic technologies.
Here are the top 5 examples of sustainable biomimetic architecture:
1. Eastgate Centre Building, Zimbabwe
The dilemma faced by architect Mick Pearce was to decide whether the building should be designed according to the cold climate or the hot climate as the temperature in Zimbabwe ranges from 3 °C up to 43 °C. Pearce found the solution to his problem while studying the termites’ moulds. Termites design their dwelling to maintain a constant temperature inside irrespective of the temperature variation of the outside. The mounds have a series of opening and closing vents throughout the mound to increase convection currents of air – cooler air is drawn in from the openings present at the lower sections while hot air rises and escapes through the vents.
Inspired from the termite mounds, Eastgate Centre building has an air circulation system, which maintains the building temperature even without air conditioning and uses 90% less energy for ventilation than a conventional building of a similar size uses, hence moving towards a more sustainable building.
2. St Mary Axe, London
30 St Mary Axe also known as Gherkin is the first ecological building of London, imitates the Venus flower basket’s shape and lattice structure. The skeleton of the building works in the same way in the air as the sponge does in water. The cylindrical shape of the building reduces wind deflections and creates the external pressure differentials that drive the natural ventilation system. Air flows around the building more smoothly and continuously than compared to the rectilinear shape of a traditional tower. A lattice-like, diagonally braced structure around the exterior and open floor plans allows the structure to “breath” like a lung for sustainability. The openness also provides a large amount of natural light to reach the interiors.
3. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture, Qatar
An excellent example of biomimetic architecture, MMA’s new building is designed to achieve maximum sustainability and respond well to the hot and dry climate of Qatar without increasing the electrical load. Aesthetics Architects GO Group studied the cactus plant, which is found in abundance in the desert area to understand the survival mechanism of the plant in such a harsh climate and develop a shading device. The sunshades of the windows are designed to read the intensity of the sun during the day, the sun shades can be opened depending on the intensity of the sun during the day, depending on this the sun shades can open or close to keep out the heat. This is similar to how a cactus performs transpiration at night instead of during the day to retain water.
4. Beijing Olympic Stadium, China
Designed by Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron, Beijing Olympic stadium is an exemplary example of the fusion of modern architecture with biomimicry. The design inspiration is derived from a bird’s nest which forms the outer facade and structural frame for the stadium. The advanced geometry of the nest helps in achieving a compact and optimum design. Just as birds stuff the spaces between the twigs with soft fillers, the spaces in the nest structure are filled with inflated plastic cushions to provide wind protection. The structure allows natural ventilation in the stadium which is an important aspect of sustainable design.
5. The Biomimetic Office Building
The Biomimetic Office is the first office building that has been extensively designed on the concept of biomimicry. The office is predicted to be one of the lowest energy office buildings in the world.
The design inspiration for devising the daylighting solution is taken from spookfish, stone plants, and brittlestars. The structure of the building has been framed by analyzing the form of bird skulls, cuttlebone, sea urchins, and giant Amazon water lilies. The environmental control technique was inspired by termites, penguin feathers, and polar bear fur; mimosa leaves, beetle wings, and hornbeam leaves were studied for designing the solar shading device for the office building.