What Is Biomimetic Architecture?
Biomimetic architecture or biomimetic architecture or biomimicry in architecture are different terms referring to the same kind of architecture whose work or the model or the measure is inspired by nature. It’s a new science that studies the forms, the workings, and the processes of nature. Hence, biomimetic architecture is a scientific approach that goes beyond the form and aesthetics and studies and implies nature’s working principles into the construction principles. Applying these principles to architecture gave rise to the term Biomimetic architecture. Basically, it’s not learning about nature but purely learning from nature. Interesting, right? Yes, damn interesting! The terms biomimetics and biomimicry are of Greek origin, wherein bios mean life and mimesis means to imitate.
The aim is to use nature as a model, measure, and mentor in creating buildings, cities, and technologies that are well-adapted to local environments and that minimize their impact on the natural world. This approach considers not only the physical form of natural systems but also their functioning and the relationships between their components, which can inspire new solutions to architectural and environmental challenges.
In ‘Biomimicry – Innovation Inspired by Nature’ by Janine Benyus discusses nine basic laws underpinning the concept of biomimicry.
1. Nature runs on sunlight
2. Nature uses only the energy it needs
3. Nature fits form to function
4. Nature recycles everything
5. Nature rewards co-operation
6. Nature banks on diversity
7. Nature demands local expertise
8. Nature curbs excesses from within
9. Nature taps the power of limits
The usage of this term dates back to 1941 when Swiss engineer George de Mestral noticed that some seeds kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur. Post the study of this plant, he discovered several hooks that maintained the bond. And after seven years, he invented the hook-and-loop fastener, which he named Velcro. Though the term biomimicry came much later, the early examples of biomimicry are seen in the dome of Florence cathedral. Wherein, the architect Filippo Brunelleschi studied the strength of eggshells and designed the thinner, lighter dome of the cathedral, completed in 1436.
Advantages of Biomimicry in Architecture and why is it the need of the hour?
There are several advantages of biomimicry architecture, including:
- Sustainability: By using nature as a model, biomimicry architecture can lead to more sustainable built environments that are better adapted to local conditions and that have a lower impact on the environment.
- Efficiency: By imitating the systems and processes found in nature, biomimicry architecture can lead to more efficient use of resources, such as energy, water, and materials.
- Innovation: By looking to nature for inspiration, architects can find new and innovative solutions to architectural and environmental challenges.
- Harmony with the natural environment: Biomimicry architecture seeks to create built environments that are in harmony with their natural surroundings, reducing the visual and ecological impact of human development.
- Resiliency: By incorporating the adaptability and resilience of natural systems, biomimicry architecture can help create built environments that are better able to withstand the impacts of natural disasters and changing environmental conditions.
- Health and well-being: By creating built environments that are more connected to nature, biomimicry architecture can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of occupants.
These are just a few of the advantages of biomimicry architecture. By using nature as a model, architects can create more sustainable, efficient, and innovative built environments that enhance the lives of their occupants and minimize their impact on the natural world.
How does biomimetics promote sustainability?
Nature is the most timeless thing we would ever encounter and what would be more sustainable than mimicking its forms, mechanisms and processes? If we ought to think about planet earth over the next 100 years, biomimicry is the keyword. More sustainable and more time-tested processes.
Biomimicry in architecture involves taking inspiration from natural systems and processes to design buildings that are more sustainable and efficient. By imitating the way nature works, architects can create structures that are better adapted to their environment and have a smaller ecological footprint.
For example, a building designed to mimic the way a termite mound regulates its internal temperature can use passive cooling strategies that reduce the need for air conditioning. Similarly, a building inspired by the structure of a tree can incorporate strategies for efficient resource use, such as rainwater harvesting and solar energy collection.
By using biomimicry in architecture, designers can create structures that are not only more sustainable but also more resilient, adaptable, and aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, by adopting a nature-based approach to design, architects can help to raise awareness of environmental issues and promote a more ecologically conscious mindset in the building industry.
When you work with the same efficiency as nature, you start to become very close to nature. The more our world looks and functions like this natural world, the more likely we are to be accepted in this home that is ours, but not ours alone.
Certain principles from biomimetic are universal to everything:-
• Minimizing the amount of materials,
• Maximizing the structural strength of the object,
• Maximizing the closed volume of the object,
•Shaping the object that stresses are distributed equally.
There’s a big difference between copying the forms of nature and understanding the principles of nature. Going back to the roots will help the designers to move towards the path of sustainability.
Examples of biomimetic construction material/ techniques
1. Algae curtains to remove air Pollution
London-based architecture office Ecologicstudio has designed the bio mimic algae curtains that can rest over the building facades. The micro-algae are harnessed in serpentine tubes. These algae feed on air and daylight and capture carbon dioxide, and release oxygen in their surroundings. They work on the photosynthesis model found in nature. They are said to capture 1 Kg carbon dioxide per day, equivalent to that of 20 large trees. They are also bioluminescent, casting a faint glow at night.
2. A White Wood that Reflects most of the Solar Radiation
A natural polymer present in the wood- lignin, if removed, the wood can reflect most of the solar radiation. Lignin is an emitter of infrared radiation. This new biomimetic material will help with the passive cooling of the buildings, wherein building temperatures can be reduced without artificial energy inputs. Apart from reflecting solar radiation, the wood absorbs heat and emits it as intermediate infrared radiation. It is said to reduce the surface temperature up to 10 degrees Celsius. Moreover, the resulting wood is eight times stronger than the original.
3. Havelock Wool Mimics Regulation of Body Heat
Natural Sheep’s wool can be a replacement for caustic fiberglass. Fiberglass can be linked to respiratory illness and skin inflammation. It can be filled inside wall cavities to regulate humidity and temperature. It can trap moisture when it exceeds 65% humidity and release it when it falls.
Despite such advancements in technology, the negative impacts of our design and construction systems are sinful. Biomimicry has a way out. We need to change our behaviors and vary the attitude of our architectural practices.
As architects, we have a role and responsibility toward the planet we inhabit. If we are to tackle climate change and create more sustainable environments we have to turn to nature for answers.
If we adopt nature-inspired designs in our contemporary practices, we would create better spaces, would have better building forms, and could easily incorporate natural thermal and carbon footprint regulations. Definitely, a lot has been researched and way more advancements are the need of the hour. Bio-mimetic architecture gives us hope and a way out when following the path toward sustainability.
Biomimicry in architecture will implant new layers of information into the design of our buildings. The visionary concepts of today may become the seeds for the buildings of tomorrow. We still have a long way to go in replicating natural systems but it is a challenge we may have to face headstrong if we are to remain on this earth.
Content Contributor: Megha Hirani, The Architect’s Diary
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