The Triple Value of Environmental Biomimicry

Bios means life and mimesis means imitation. From these two Greek words is a conscious emulation of life’s processes: biomimicry. It is an emerging approach, science, or field to developing sustainable solutions to human challenges by imitating nature’s time-tested phenomena, principles, and patterns. It seeks to discover and incorporate nature’s workings over 4.5 billion years of innovation.

For the designer, biomimicry is a valuable source of design inspiration. It nourishes curiosity by providing the opportunity to learn about life’s energy, water, and material use. It broadens the plane of design solutions by bringing new ideas to the table. This field goes beyond standard form, manipulating nature’s inherent sustainability strategies to create structures that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also highly functional, material efficient, and well-adapted to their environment. Furthermore, biomimicry fosters a fun, creative environment, allowing one to draw on personal outdoor experiences for inspiration in their designs.

For the project group, biomimicry is a framework for design innovation. It breaks the flow of traditional thinking with the constant question: how does nature solve this problem? With sufficient knowledge to answer this question, project teams can brainstorm and explore new solutions to solve these challenges in novel and innovative ways. This emulative approach can also accomplish multiple tasks with one simple design. Just as trees produce energy, provide shade with their leaves, and protect themselves with bark, biomimicry grants the opportunity to create a single, simple, and multi-functional design for buildings and systems. Projects can also be well-adapted to their environment and climate by leveraging cyclic processes, such as the change of season, by building with readily available energy and materials. Solving challenges becomes more easily attainable and much cheaper through biomimicry.

For the community, biomimicry is a precious tool for systemic transformation. It emulates and enhances ecosystem processes by designing buildings, parks, and streets to perform the same functions a natural ecosystem does. Through processes such as carbon sequestration, energy production, flooding mitigation, and rainwater harvest, society can establish a stable environment that blends in and contributes to nature. Biomimicry also encourages collaborative synergies by rethinking building structures as nested systems that are both part of a larger one and consisting of smaller ones. This method saves energy, cost, and resources for the community at large. Lastly, it embodies the systemic resilience of life’s processes, which have adapted and transformed themselves over billions of years. Looking to nature for guidance, a community can incorporate diversity and flexibility into its manmade systems, allowing them to become inherently resilient to disturbances or the unexpected.

In today’s society, adaptive, regenerative, and responsive environments that generate zero-waste are needed. This method of creative problem solving, that draws inspiration from nature, may be the beginnings of the next renaissance in construction and design — but only if professional industries are willing to keep an open mind and embrace this innovative science.

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