Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Don’t flatter yourself


What is it?

They say imitation is the sincerest  form of flattery. Biomimicry imitates nature. By observing natural forms, behaviors and processes; humans can adapt these natural designs to solve their own problems. “The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with: energy, food production, climate control, benign chemistry, transportation, collaboration, and more.  Mimicking these earth-savvy designs can help humans leapfrog to technologies that sip energy, shave material use, reject toxins, and work as a system to create conditions conducive to life” (Benyus, 2012).

Case studies [images and text borrowed from the Biomimicry Institute website, 2012]

Learning from Termites How to Create Sustainable Buildings

 After studying termite mounds , it was discovered that  nest temperatures were maintained within one degree both day and night [the outside temperature ranges from 42 °C to 3 °C]. This represents 40% of energy used by humans. 

Architects and engineers took this technology and designed the Eastgate Building in Zimbabwe modeled after the termite mounds. The building used 90% less energy and has saved over $3.5 million dollars in air conditioning costs (BI, 2012).

Learning from Dolphins How to Warn People about Tsunamis

Current Tsunami warning systems developed by EvoLogics; are emulating dolphin frequency-modulating acoustics. Sound scatters in water, but dolphins found a way to cope by using high frequency, rapid transmission. “In order to reliably detect them and warn people before they reach land, sensitive pressure sensors must be located underneath passing waves in waters as deep as 6000 meters. The data must then be transmitted up to a buoy at the ocean's surface, where it is relayed to a satellite for distribution to an early warning center. Transmitting data through miles of water has proven difficult, however: sound waves, while unique in being able to travel long distances through water, reverberate and destructively interfere with one another as they travel, compromising the accuracy of information” (BI, 2012).

If you are interested in learning more about biomimicry; there is an online course available here:

Additional Reading list:
Mathews, F., 2004.Towards a Deeper Philosophy of Biomimicry. Organization Environment vol. 24 no. 4 pp.364-387

Davidson. E., et al., 2010. In vitro Biomimicry for Vascularized Bone Engineering. Journal of Surgical Research  V. 158, Issue 2 , P. 320.

Gamage, A. & Hyde, R., 2012. A model based on Biomimicry to enhance ecologically sustainable design. Architectural Science Review. V. 55, Issue 3.

(BI) Biomimicry Institute, 2012 http://www.biomimicryinstitute.org/case_studies.php

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