Biomimicry Architecture – What Nature Teaches us about Design Efficiency

4 mn read

Biomimicry architecture is increasing in popularity as it enables architects to understand the role of nature within the design ecosystem. With animals, plants, and other natural elements surviving generations of environmental challenges, novel solutions have been developed that can be easily found in nature. Architects and planners with a keen eye can spot these solutions early and apply them to solve real-life challenges, such as wind resistance for skyscrapers, airflow for housing complexes, etc.

One of the first few examples of biomimicry was that of Filippo Brunelleschi, who studied eggshells to develop thinner and lighter domes when designing cathedrals in Florence. He unlocked the solution hidden behind the simple eggshell and used that to his advantage when designing his creations in the early 1400s. In the modern era, the idea of next-gen scale-driven solar panels was also largely inspired by leaves, mimicking the concept of maximizing surface area through geometric patterns for optimal exposure.


There is much to learn from nature, as more designers focus on the fundamental lessons that they can derive from the natural environment.

Optimization is essential to design

Designs that are produced for scale-driven projects need to be highly optimized to ensure maximum efficiency, in terms of maintenance, materials, manpower, etc. Some of the largest structures developed worldwide gain inspiration from nature, especially with their efficient utilization of form and function.

E.g., the Beijing National Stadium mimics nature in the form of an upturned nest, with a concrete seating bowl, and outer steel frame that resembles a nest’s twigs. The design implements novel concepts, such as how the nest is insulated by raw stuffing. The façade of the building provides acoustic insulation and lowers the dead load on the roof as well.

Nature is also effective at critical regionalism, which is the essential reliance on regional conditions to solve challenges. Since birds, animals, mountains, and rivers are a holistic part of their environment, the solutions that they develop can be used when designing concepts within a specific region.

When ensuring adequate airflow through a building, we can learn from the prairie dog that can take advantage of speed gradients by creating mounds with elevated opening upwind and ones with lower opening downwind. This creates a local region of low pressure creating a one-way airflow to pass through gaps. This helps us understand the innovative concept of venturi tube structures better and how they impact optimal airflow in buildings.

Sustainability is key

A key principle behind biomimicry is to adopt solutions that are sustainable and scalable. By using sustainable materials and practices, we can ensure that our designs last the test of time. Leveraging nature as our mentor can show us the best way forward when it comes to design and longevity. Concepts such as natural convection, thermal mass, water cooling, and ventilation stacks can be adopted from nature and refined further when studying specific ecosystems.

 

Architects can also introduce biophilic design through biomimicry to connect occupants to buildings better and to promote sustainable living within these spaces. Key areas such as natural lighting, ventilation, and natural landscapes, can help reconnect human beings with their natural-self better. From the super-trees in Singapore to the Eden project in England, there are several examples of sophisticated, sustainable structures that leverage the best of biomimicry to ensure a holistic natural balance.

The best architects and designers ensure that structures are highly optimized for their regional conditions and are sustainably designed to meet outlined requirements. That is why architecture firms in Dubai ensure sustainability in design, by optimizing planning to reflect best practices. Prasoon Design, and other renowned architectural firms, gain inspirational from natural solutions to minimize the reliance on non-renewable materials, methodologies, and systems for complex structures.

Design through iterations

While designers may be quick to jump to new ideas and concepts based on what their intuition might suggest, the process is much more iterative and dynamic in the field. Nature is no different in this regard, as we often learn from the final product more than the process or journey behind it. For every solution that we see work effortlessly in nature, there are hundreds of other pathways that were inefficient but nearly ideal in their approach. Iterative processing is essential to the design process, to finally come up with scalable solutions to key architectural challenges.

Looking at the famous example of termites and how they create mini buildings that automatically cool themselves, architects can design better structures that are autonomous by design. We have learned that smaller windows present on the structure minimize heat absorption, and extended overhangs provide greater shade. Low-power fans can also pull in cooler night air within the structure and ensure that the temperature does not rise beyond a certain threshold. The mimicking process is equally essential to the outcome, which is why designers need to find the right balance between structure and flexibility to come up with the best solutions for their projects.

The key takeaway from biomimicry is the idea of resilience, and that these solutions have survived centuries of challenges in nature, giving us the best way to understand our environment. While certain ideas may take longer to work through, the end result should be optimal for the challenges being faced in terms of form and function. Designers can learn significantly from the process of bio-adaptation by studying the interplay of nature and evolution.

Conclusion

Biomimicry is a popular phenomenon, where architects borrow concepts from nature to solve real-life challenges faced in the modern world. The shape, structure, form, and elements of nature help define some of the solutions in a highly efficient manner owing to millions of years of natural evolution. Sustainability is also a key area of focus when it comes to applying biomimicry principles, which is why several architects are looking closer at naturally defined solutions to create novel concepts. Architects looking to innovate for complex and challenging projects should understand the role of design and nature for new solutions.

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