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Biomimicry in Architectural Design

Biomimicry in Architectural Design

A Tool For Natural Design

Many people are already familiar with the concept of Biophilia: the innate connection between humans and the natural world. This connection can make healthier built environments through enhancing architectural design with natural elements and features. Biophilia for architectural projects influences: building forms, materials, and design with ample views and natural daylighting.

Biomimicry in architecture takes biophilia a step further, emulating and mimicking natural systems and forms to create unique structures using the principles and functions of the natural world. It can create sustainable, healthy solutions for architectural design, playing a significant role in the innovations required for a sustainable future. This allows architects to reframe functional questions with a basis in natural design, disrupting traditional thinking and pushing innovation. Examples of this include designing a passive ventilation system based on the principles of termite mounds, or efficient structural systems based on skeletal systems. Biomimicry is not yet common practice in architecture and is in the early stages of implementation. Most biomimetic designs are the purview of startups and conceptual work, though proven examples are becoming more common.

Biomimicry in Architecture

Biomimetic architecture is inspiring designers to reassess the function and form of the built environment to serve the needs of occupants and the environment. As an emerging discipline, forms of biomimicry in architecture practice and education are relatively new to professionals not trained in biology. This challenges current and upcoming architects to think in different terms than those dictated by established designs and materials.

Biomimetic designs can inherit resiliency and regenerative traits for combating climate change by emulating the self-healing, resilient, and low-cost natural tools and processes that provide its inspiration. This type of thinking and design will be crucial to humanity's response to the climate crisis in coming years, generating low-maintenance and sustainable buildings that achieve carbon neutrality or use carbon capture as a method of function or manufacturing.

Biophilia and Biophilic Design at OHPD

At OHPD, we use elements of Biophilia, sustainable design, and "building-as-curriculum" features to enhance education and engage student creativity in numerous projects. Biophilic design at The new Kellogg Middle School for Portland Public Schools uses natural ratios, textures, and concepts to enhance student comfort and focus, while tying this Net Zero-Ready building to the environment of the Pacific Northwest and the surrounding neighborhood.

Examples can be found in the New Bridge High School in Grant's Pass, the Career and Technical Education Building at Woodburn High School. The biophilic aspects of these projects are displayed to give occupants a sense of calm, connectivity, and curiosity through "building-as-curriculum" features.

Additional Examples of Biomimicry and Biophilia in the Built Environment

Esplanade Theatres, Singapore, China

These structures mimic the protective skin of the Durian Fruit. Oriented to the path of the sun, the shading façade provides passive climate control while allowing natural light and shadows into the space.

National Aquatic Center, Beijing, China

Inspired by the shapes of animal cells and soap bubbles, this structure was built for the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Organic design using Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) a fluorine-based plastic that is light weight and highly insulating, the exterior traps 20% of the solar energy used to heat its pools.

"L'Arbres a Vent" (Wind Trees) – Silent Turbine

Image credit: New World Wind

French Entrepreneur Jérôme Michaud-Larivière 's company, New World Wind, has created a Mini Turbine with 72 artificial leaves. Using this tree shape, the "leaves" spin on the "trunk" to generate urban wind power. Turbines produce 3.1KW/tree using biophilic design to avoid the subjective eyesore and objective noise of urban wind turbines. When combined together, the "Arbres A Vent" ("Wind trees" in English) can provide less intrusive means of offsetting energy usage in areas previously considered too small for wind power.

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