“Houses are machines for living in,” as Le Corbusier once said. One could say that a building is one of the largest and most used machine in existence today. So why is it that this particular type of machine is so inefficient? A new precedent for design inspiration is needed to mitigate the impact that buildings have on the environment. A machine can be defined as a device that uses energy to perform an activity. Nature, which uses solar energy, can therefore be said to be the most sustainable machine. So why not use this as a model to base building design and construction off of? Biomimicry, or the study of nature’s models which are then imitated or used for inspiration, is a process to solve design problems.
In architecture, the “hip” thing today as Bjarke Ingels puts it, is sustainability. The most popular definition of sustainability was defined at a 1987 UN conference. It defined sustainable developments as those that "meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." While this definition is the most popular for sustainability it does not define any measurable parameters for modeling and measuring sustainable developments. One definition put forth by Vieria in, “A Check List for Sustainable Developments”, sustainability "identifies a concept and attitude in development that looks at a site's natural land, water, and energy resources as integral aspects of the development." Biomimicry uses a site’s natural environment to influence the design. Different environmental aspects play an integral part in the design of the form and function of a building.
Early further promotes the idea of biomimicry by stating that, “Sustainability integrates natural systems with human patterns.” (Early 1) The integration of natural systems is exactly what biomimicry aims to accomplish. How can one make a building that is sustainable in nature without adopting similar characteristics?
Us, as human beings, depend on nature for our survival. Even on the basic level of breathing, we require nature. A plant uses a process called photosynthesis, which takes carbon dioxide from the air, which is poisonous to us, and creates oxygen as a byproduct of the process. The oxygen that is created is what enables us to breathe. Nature has been vetting strategies for 3.8 billion years. Biomimicry helps you study the successful strategies of the survivors, so you can thrive in your marketplace. Gathering inspiration from nature will allow for human development of technologies and designs that walk a path that is parallel to that of the environment.
The process of biomimicry differs from the 20th century style of design where the problem is defined, then apply as much brute force as needed to solve the problem is used. Biomimicry’s process offers more finesse rather than brute force to derive a solution. To begin with, the first step is to define what your design will accomplish, such as rain collection or capture...