What we learn from Biomimicry in Architecture

A new field called "biomimicry," which derives its name from the Greek words "bios," which means "life," and "mimesis," which means "to imitate," investigates nature's best innovations before applying these patterns and methods to solve problems in society. A prime example of "innovation inspired by nature" is the study of a leaf in order to develop a more effective solar cell.

A building is a living structure. It safeguards its residents, controls heating and air, and carries out various procedures to communicate with the outside world. Taking inspiration from the various flora and fauna of the world, which developed to interact with and benefit from their surroundings, architects have begun to design structures with this in mind. The field of "biomimetic architecture" is expanding and seeks to imitate the conservation strategies used by the natural world to create more sustainable structures. 

By incorporating building designs that are inspired by biomimicry, the impact of buildings on the degradation of natural resources can be reduced. The practice of "biomimicry" focuses on using nature as a source of technological inspiration, which also lowers the accompanying carbon impact. Around 30% of the world's raw materials, 40% of its energy, and 30% of its greenhouse gas emissions are used in building construction and electricity use. Buildings, on the other hand, can have a smaller carbon footprint and retain more biological habitats nearby, for a net positive effect on natural resources, if they are designed and built as living structures or even as environments that interact with their occupants and the world around them.

Engineers have recently advanced soft-robotics, micro-electromechanics, and other highly technical sectors using biomimicry, a technique that combines biology, chemistry, engineering, and other disciplines. However, as biomimetic technology develops and becomes more widely accessible, researchers are looking into the prospect of using biomimicry to solve challenges in the field of architecture.

Since there isn't yet a material that properly and automatically balances environmental conditions and never wears out, researchers are looking into a biomimetic strategy as a potential substitute. The greatest material for making skins may be wood, one of the first building materials utilised by mankind. Wood is reactive to moisture even if it is not very reactive to light; in fact, the natural expansion and contraction is something that is controlled in conventional building. A climate control system could be made using the correct arrangement of wood and its reactivity to moisture. Veneer, a paper-thin strip of wood, curls when temperatures and humidity levels are in each range and uncurls when those conditions are no longer present.

3 Ways for Architects to Implement Biomimicry

Although the terms "biomimicry" and "biophilia" are not new, many architects and designers are unsure on how to identify them. Here are three ways that architects can contribute to the realization of this idea.

1. Incorporate nature into all projects

Designers frequently consult websites that feature glossy photos of brand-new structures for inspiration for their work. They could do better to go for a stroll through the forest. The world is amazing, declares Freed. 'If we as designers open our eyes to it, we should discover unlimited inspiration everywhere—and not in a hippie way, but in a very real, deployable way,' said the author.

Think about form. There are several ways to incorporate natural shapes into a structure, such as modelling columns after trees or utilizing botanical themes in textiles and wall coverings.Freed suggests that one easy method to begin incorporating nature into projects is to thoroughly examine each site's particular characteristics, including the topography, the sun's path, the climate, and the flora and animals. The architecture can then emphasize some of these components.

2. Take up the cause of biomimicry

Architects can design structures that are in harmony with natural processes, such as the atmosphere of the planet and the human body, by learning how nature handles problems. Nature has been enhancing living things for billions of years to make them survive in their environments. Spider silk is five times stronger than steel, but human bones are four times stronger than concrete (and only half as heavy). However, the production of bone and silk does not result in industrial emissions like those of concrete or steel.

3. Look for biodegradable materials

Nontoxic, environmentally friendly product development has increased, and mindful MATERIALS, an online product library, has made it simpler to locate and certify them. Designers can now specify natural materials like cross-laminated wood and insulation made of soy and hemp in addition to more well-known alternatives.

Freed is most enthusiastic about bio-based products like the BioMASON bricks, which can be developed to fulfil individual demands and then grown like crops as opposed to being produced using energy-intensive industrial procedures. Materials with unique features, such as the capacity to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reflect heat in the summer, or illuminate at night, could be created by manipulating DNA.

Biomimicry's future is multidisciplinary.

It may seem weird that replicating the way the natural world functions is only now becoming popular, but the global focus on sustainability is forcing people to consider all kinds of efficient systems. Additionally, engineers lacked the tools necessary to replicate natural processes until recently.

What, then, can engineering and architecture take from nature and apply it? As long as there is an increase in multidisciplinary collaboration, the answer is much more. It is more likely that hybrid fields like biomimicry in architecture will take off as biologists, architects, mechanical engineers, and materials scientists work together more frequently.

“If you trap biomimicry in design or engineering as though any one field owns it, you poison its potential,” says Niewiarowski.

Written by

Trishla Chadha
Architect | Content writer

Stay in the loop

Sign up for our newsletter

We promise weʼll never spam you.

Sign up for our newsletter

Don’t miss articles and interviews with industry leaders in architecture, design and real estate