Architectural Theory, Building Design, Design Guide, Design Theory

Biomimicry – Definition, Features and Examples

While doing an architectural project, it’s not new to architects and students to choose concepts related to nature. Architects dating as far back as ancient Greece have also tried the same. The rows of acanthus leaves in the Corinthian columns are proof of this.

Most of us take inspiration from the aesthetic forms of nature to apply in our own design. But choosing biomimicry would be to go one step further.

what is biomimicry?

What is Biomimicry?

Biomimicry takes notes from nature and works towards an architecture that reflects on the geography and culture of its surroundings. This way, we can design buildings following a concept derived from nature not just for decor, but for functionality.

In this article we have detailed the following features of biomimicry:

  1. Hyper Efficiency
  2. Sustainability
  3. Emphasis on local climate
  4. Studying the survivors
  5. Enhance the ecosystem

Hyper Efficiency

Think of the Earth as a living being with perfectly working systems. When we build systems to enhance our life, it’s essential that we make sure we don’t do it at the cost of our environment.  This includes the over-utilization of energy and costly expenses that also occur during the process.

By employing biomimetic solutions, we can ensure that the design is not only effective, but also hyper efficient and will never disrupt the natural flow of things.

Wind Turbines from flippers of Humpback whales

comparison of flippers of humpback whales and wind turbines design - biomimicry
Blades of wind turbines inspired by the flippers of humpback whales

Hump-back whales have bumps on the edge of their flippers which contributes to their incredible agility. Wind turbines inspired by these whales improved in their performance and efficiency.

Inspired features:

  • Blades with three-dimensional bumps that alter the flow of air and distribution of pressure.
  • Wing-like shape of blade for greater lift and minimum drag.

Sustainability

By understanding and studying how nature solves problems, one can come up with solutions that encourage a symbiotic and friendly relationship with the surroundings. One way to ensure this is to design innovations which are multi-purpose and versatile and not just for solving one single problem.

Additionally, regenerative and self-healing designs should be encouraged so that we don’t further degrade the environment. Thereby, the ultimate goal of attaining maximum sustainability becomes a byproduct instead.

Geometric screen systems inspired from flowers

Open-close geometry of the facade inspired by the sunflower
Open-close geometry of the facade inspired by the sunflower

This building screen system opens and closes in response to sunlight (like a flower). The geometry and elasticity of the flowers played a major role in the study.

Inspired features:

  • The wooden lattices are aesthetic and functional at the same time.
  • Geometry allows the open and close based on the sun’s position which reduces the energy use and increases comfort of the user. 
  • Thermobimetal material expands more quickly in heat to block the sun’s extreme heat. 

Emphasis on Climate

Constantly rising temperature, environmental degradation, natural disasters- all these are the consequences of the climate crisis we are currently facing. 

Instead of waging a constant war against the climate to hold nature at bay, continuously expending energy (with machines like air conditioners), our interventions can take advantage of the local weather and build with vernacular materials. 

Office building inspired from termite dens

Temperature regulation of East Gate Office inspired by termite dens
Temperature regulation of East Gate Office inspired by termite dens

In order to create a building without air conditioning, the East Gate Office in Zimbabwe adapted a natural cooling system inspired by dens. 

Inspired features:

  • Maintains a comfortable temperature constantly
  • Large chimneys that draw in cool air
  • Slabs that retain coolness

Studying the Survivors

After millions of years’ worth of evolution, every single organism on this planet has come up with unique strategies on how best to survive the conditions they live in.

There is a high chance that nature has already come up with solutions to all our problems. We just need to find ways to apply it at the right places to create efficient strategies. 

Climbing pads from Geckos feet

Adhesiveness of climbing pads inspired by the feet of Gecko
Adhesiveness of climbing pads inspired by the feet of Gecko

Geckos climb vertically with the help of very tiny hair-like strands on the bottom of their feet called setae. Due to weak attraction between molecules, a sticking force is created between the setae and the walls. Climbing pads, mimicking this method, capable of supporting human weight are now in the making.

Inspired features:

  • Adhesive tiles covered with sawtooth-shaped polymer structures the width of a human hair(100mm).
  • Connection of pads through degressive springs that lose stiffness when stretched.

Enhance the Ecosystem 

Not only do we need to learn to fit into nature’s cycle, but also to somehow contribute. There are ways to replenish the resources we have lost, and that’s possible only if we begin right now. 

The crucial step we need to take is to create interventions that not only support human life. The fact that nature-inspired forms are scientifically proven to connect us with our surroundings is also an added advantage. 

Material to collect water inspired from the Stenocara beetle

Water absorptive surface of water collector inspired by the stenocara beetle
Water absorptive surface of water collector inspired by the stenocara beetle

Researchers are trying to make synthetic surfaces inspired for the Stenocara beetle’s body which helps it to capture water from air. This is done with the help of grooves on the beetle’s forewings.

Inspired features:

  • Water condensation by using aluminium due to its cold property.
  • Water permeable holes that are only big enough allow water to seep through the surface (avoiding dust particles).
  • Grooves with hydrophobic and hydrophilic areas.

Biomimicry, in a nutshell, is to study and mimic the already present ways in which organisms solve their problems; to apply the processes which are found in natural environments and in species and translate it into the designing of energy efficient solutions for architecture. 

Although the field of biomimicry has not advanced as fast as we would wish it did, there is still hope that these interventions will one day become a major part of our lives. Because at the end of day, we all return to square one.

Other articles you might also be interested in:

2 thoughts on “Biomimicry – Definition, Features and Examples

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.