Biomimicry offers an understanding of how life works and where one finds its place in it. It is an empathetic approach that has begun gaining momentum in several fields of work. Biomimetic design was a concept without any guiding methodology or goal before biologist Janine Benyus. The publication of her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature in 1997 opened a new world of understanding regarding the way nature repeatedly solved problems with the experience it gained over the 3.8 billion years of development. Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the usage of biomimicry to help design and develop products. The field of architecture itself has leaned towards learning from nature to create sustainable built environments. To understand how biomimicry can help us in creating more efficient designs, here are 10 facts about biomimicry that architects must know.
- Biomimicry or biomimetics is derived from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. It defines the imitation of models, strategies, or processes of nature to solve human problems. It understands the rules governing the forms rather than replicating the mere forms itself.2. There are three levels of mimicry: the organism level, the behavioral level, and the ecosystem level. Working on an organism level mimics a specific organism while working on a behavioral level mimics the way an organism relates to its context. The level of the ecosystem mimics the natural processes and cycle of the greater environment. It looks into principles that essentially make up the ecosystem such as dependency on contemporary light, optimization of systems, dependency and attunement to the local conditions, diversity in components, favorable conditions for sustained life, and the evolution of the system at different levels. For a design to mimic nature at an ecosystem level, all 6 principles must be followed.
- To be able to attain innovative designs Carl Hastrich, an industrial designer created a tool in 2005 which was the Biomimicry design spiral. It provides a clear process to follow in order to produce a design inspired by nature. One lap in the spiral allows the user to identify functions that the design should perform, helps translate the functions into biological terms, discover strategies that nature uses to perform said functions, create an abstraction of the strategies into technical terms, emulate the strategies, and finally evaluate the design.4. One of the earliest signs of biomimicry in architecture can be dated back to the Sagrada Familia Church by Antoni Gaudi. The building uses nature’s forms to solve structural problems. Antoni made use of columns that were developed from the branching canopies of trees to provide support to the vault.
- Biomimicry in architecture goes beyond design principles. It serves as an inspiration to develop automation systems such as the Ivy solar cells designed by SMIT. The cells combine chlorophyll with carbon materials to generate renewable energy. It also aids in the creation of innovative materials. For example, bioMASON created a biological cement block that alters the pH balance of the surrounding aggregate material.6. Biomimicry can be considered as a sustainable design methodology in architecture. It provides sustainable solutions to designs. For example, the East gate center in Harare draws its design inspiration from the self-cooling mounds of African termites. The imitation at the behavioral level allows the building to create comfortable spaces by regulating the temperature of the interior spaces, the air of the surrounding area as well as the concrete slab. It also helps cut down energy costs.
- Biomimicry can help emulate and enhance the ecosystem. Designing urban environments that imitate the services of a natural ecosystem like rainwater harvesting, carbon sequestration, energy production, etc. can create an environment that compliments and contributes to the ecosystem. For example, the development of the living machine water filtration system by the company living machine systems in 2012 is based on the principles of wetland ecology. The patented tidal process of the system cleans water and attains a high-quality reuse standard.
- Biomimicry can help accomplish several needs with one solution. For example, the leaves of trees provide shade while its bark helps protect and cool the moving water beneath its surface. Similarly, structures with surfaces and systems can achieve multiple functions with a simple system.
- Biomimicry aids climatic responsive architecture. Innovative facades, cooling systems, and shading devices help create designs that adapt to the context and climate of the site it is located in and creates efficient designs. For example, the BIQ building in Hamburg uses microalgae as a second facade. The reactivity of the algae to the sun makes it acts as a shade in the summer and allows the entry of light into spaces as it barely cultivates in winter.
- Nature has evolved to adapt and be resilient over the years. The quality and ability to adapt and build resilience can be adopted in buildings through variation, redundancy, and decentralization.