Biomimicry successful examples of biomimicry originate in products and

 

Biomimicry
come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate.

The
history of Biomimicry goes back to 500 B.C where, the Greek philosophers have
seen natural organisms as models for a harmonious balance and proportion
between the different parts of a design. An early example of biomimicry was
Leonardo’s Da Vinci flying machine inspired by birds, in 1482.  The term Biomimicry, however first appeared
in 1982. Scientist and author Janine Benyus popularized the term biomimicry in
her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. In her
book, Benyus suggests that a way to solve human problems is by shifting
perspective from learning about nature to learning from nature.
Sustainability issues are among those that can be addressed by applying
the biomimicry process to a project.

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In
reality, however, practical application of biomimicry in architectural designs
remains largely unrealised. Most of the successful examples of biomimicry
originate in products and materials which basically mimic an aspect of a single
organism. Although there are some designs architects have employed biomimicry
successfully to increase sustainability, the potential to build environment is
still unexploited. A barrier is the lack of a clearly defined approach to
biomimicry that architectural designers can initially employ.

 

BIOMIMICRY
APPLICATIONS

 

One
approach to design process is for designers to define initial goals for the
design and search in nature to find solutions to problems they are facing in
implementing them. A second approach is instead of searching solutions to solve
a problem in a design concept, to allow biological knowledge influence the
design concept. 

 

DaimlerChrysler’s
prototype Bionic Car (fig. 1) is an example of the first approach. Dieter
Gürtler and his colleagues from the Mercedes Technology Center, in order
to  design a bionic car decided to search
for a specific example in nature whose shape and structure approximated to
their ideas for an aerodynamic, safe, spacious and environmentally compatible
car. In other words, they defined their initial goals first and then they
searched into nature for a model that fulfils them. They looked for information
in nature to transfer into technology.

 

A
team consisting of biologists, bionics scientists and automotive researchers
began a search into the animal kingdom to find the model that will give them
the solution.  What they were looking for
they found it in a cube-shaped fish named the boxfish. Boxfish is living in the
coral reefs, lagoons and seaweed of the tropical seas. The boxfish’s main
characteristics that the team found significant to apply to their car were its aerodynamic
form, its great structural strength and its low mass. Applied to automotive
engineering, the boxfish was therefore an ideal example of rigidity and
aerodynamics.  

 

The
above were confirmed by Mercede’s Thomas Weber who in June 2005 at a
Washington, DC, conference introducing the car said: The boxfish “has to move with as little energy
consumption as possible, withstand high pressures, protect its body in
collisions, and move around in confined spaces while its rectangular anatomy
is nearly identical to the cross-section of a car body.”

 Figure 1 Mercedes Design Inspired
by Nature

 

Using
this approach however the design is made more efficient in a certain aspect
only, that of fuel use because the body is more aerodynamic and light weighted due
to the mimicking of the box fish. The idea of the car itself as a solution to
personal transport was not re-examined. Additionally, it does not consider the
relationship of the design with its ecosystem.

A
search on a database where all biological information is collected in one place
with easy and logical access could lead to a broader solution containing the
idea of the car itself as an answer to personal transport in relation to its
ecosystem.

 

An
example of the second approach is the lotus flower emerging clean from muddy
waters because of its micro-rough surface which naturally repels dirt particles
keeping its petals clean.

German
Company, Ispo, spent four years researching this phenomenon to develop paint
with similar properties. The paint adds grain (particles) to the surface of the
wall which causes water to form into droplets pushing away dust, dirt and
bacterial with it.

Figure
2  Ispo developed paint with properties similar
to lotus flower

 

This
approach however, also has a disadvantage from a design point of view. Biological
research must be conducted first and then identified as relevant to a design
context. Biologists and ecologists must therefore be able to recognise the
potential of their research in the conception of innovative applications in
designs. It has the advantage however that biological knowledge may inspire
solutions to problems that were not predetermined. In this approach, however,
the factor of “chance” plays a major role.

 

Again
in this example of biomimicry approach, a platform where architects and
biologists share information could be the media to bridge the gap and eliminate
the factor of chance.

Concluding,
simple observation was the initiator of both approaches and each has its own
advantages and disadvantages. Copying nature doesn’t necessarily result in more
sustainable solution. It is therefore important to consider different levels of
emulation.

 

Based
on the above, the effectiveness of setting a platform where all information on
both approaches is systematically gathered and enriched by relevant biological
data is prominent. Its further built up by users’ interaction will transform it
into a source of architectural design inspiration and application.

 

The
database must be organised to provide all three levels of biomimicry:

a.    Organism
level – mimicry of a specific organism

b.    Behaviour
level – mimicry of how an organism behaves

c.    Ecosystem
level – mimicry of an ecosystem

 

Within
each of these levels, further five possible dimensions to the mimicry are
provided:

1.   
what it looks like (form),

2.   
what it is made out of (material),

3.   
 how it
is made (construction),

4.   
how it works (process) or

5.   
what it is able to do (function).

 

To
indicate the differences between each kind of biomimicry the Table “Framework
for the Application of Biomimicry” is copied from Pedersen Zazi, 2007 describing
how different aspects of a termite could be mimicked.