When buildings become breathing, living objects -- or something close to it.

Veronica R

The Biomimicry Institute in the United States defines biomimicry as "an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies." It applies not only to architecture, but in fields such as transportation, agriculture, and medicine, and work in three different levels in order to provide nature-inspired solutions to design problems.

Organism Level
When biomimicry in architecture is at the organism level, it means that the structure emulates the organism in its form and/or functions. An example of this type of biomimicry is the new cactus-inspired building of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture in Qatar by the Bangkok-based firm, Aesthetics Architects GO Group. It was designed based on the shading properties of the spines of a cactus. The shades of the building, which can automatically move up and down, were built to regulate the amount of sunlight and heat that is transferred into the building.

Behavior Level
A building that mimics how the organism interacts with its surrounding environment is one that is on the behavior level of biomimicry. The Elytra Filament Pavilion by architects and engineers at the University of Stuttgart is one example of this. Located in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the 200-square-meter pavilion was designed with the forewing shells of flying beetles in mind. Its purpose is to capture people's movement under the canopies, which are made of glass and carbon fiber, through a network of sensors and thereby allowing the canopy to grow and change its configuration through the data collected.

Ecosystem Level
Biomimicry in the ecosystem level means that a structure mimics how components of the environment work together to function successfully. The Zira Island Neutral Master Plan, a concept by Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), was to turn Boyuk Zira Island located in the Caspian Sea into a carbon-neutral eco-resort and recreation center. The projects aims to create an independent eco-system by using sustainable technologies, such as powering desalination plants from the wind and extracting salt from sea water and converting it into fresh drinking water. The water would also be used for heating and cooling the buildings, with the excess waste water used for the landscape, which in turn would provide vegetation.

Some architects have used biomimicry in their design simply by mimicking the look of something from nature. Architect Michael Pawlyn, known for being a leader in biomimicry, says that "often the designs haven't been seen through in a particularly thorough way." One of the challenges in architectural biomimicry is being able to understand nature's principles in order to "lead to new innovative solutions that are radically more resource efficient," says Pawlyn. Furthermore, bio-inspired architecture takes both time and money. Not only is research and development involved, which is a slow process in the construction industry, but many architects still need to be educated on the potentials of biomimicry.

Share your thoughts on biomimicry in architecture.

When buildings become breathing, living objects  -- or something close to it.

Read More

Comments (1)

Carol • 2016

I think adding biomimicry application in structural, engineering of buildings and facades such as exoskeleton skin are also being practiced well. Santiago Calatrava uses elements in nature and repeats them such as ribbing to create structural systems as an example. In engineering, a train engineer designed the japan's bullet trains inspired by kingfisher bird's shape to increase aerodynamic performance, a windmills fins inspired by killer whales fins to increase wind generating capabilities in flatlands of Norway, biomimicry is definitely practiced to solve more than buildings but in matters that affects the masses.