Those inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain. ~ Leonardo Da Vinci
Growing up I watched a show called the Six Million Dollar Man in which an ordinary man, on the edge of death, is given a new lease on life using Bionics. Truly remarkable (on the hokey side), he was able to see, run, lift and throw things beyond what mere humans were able to.
Recently I was introduced to the term Biomimicry during a DesignTV tweetchat hosted by the wonderful Jonathan Legate and Amy at ABCD Designs. Biomimicry, a term coined by science author Janine Benyus, is the study and imitation of efficient designs in nature. And it is literally giving mere humans a new lease on life.
The Biomimicry Institute brings together scientists, engineers, architects and innovators who use designs inspired by the genius present in creation to develop sustainable technologies. All of creation offers clues to sustainable living. Biomimicry uncovers these clues to create viable solutions for eco-friendly design.
For designers, engineers and inventors the application of biomimicry taxonomy (a classification system that organizes how organisms meet various challenges in nature) allows them to collaborate with scientists to ask questions of nature. Questions like how do birds use natural materials to insulate their nests rather than how to make a chemical free insulation for use in homes and buildings.
So how does this apply to we mere humans? Most don’t consider nanotechnology when choosing eco-conscious, brightly coloured, water resistant fabrics for outdoor design projects. For our benefit, there are many sustainable products available, and I was inspired by how the science of biomimicry is already part of so much that surrounds and affects my life.
For instance, plant inspired solar cells with the ability to capture energy and rain capturing systems that mimic the outer skin of the namib desert beetle. To celebrate Earth Day 2011 I was inspired to probe a bit further and discover some of the most amazing and pioneering developments in the world of sustainable design. Here are five that impress and motivate me.
Greensulate Insulation: This fire safe insulating material is literally grown using fibrous fungi and natural materials like rice hulls and wheat husks. There are no chemical by-products or VOC’s, and the insulation can be handled safely making it easier to install.
Living Walls & Roofs: Not only do they look great and add to the decorative look of a yard, building facade or rooftop patio, living walls also conserve energy by helping to regulate the internal temperatures of the buildings they cover as well as improve air quality and reduce green house gases. This living wall in the picture is on the side of Whole Foods market just off Cambie Street in Vancouver.
Geothermal: This innovative construction practice uses the naturally present and accessible heat from the earth to heat and cool new buildings. Ground source heat pumps transfer heat from the earth to a home or building in winter, then dump heat during summer months.
Morphotex Fabrics: Inspired by Morpho Butterflies, these structural colored fibers don’t require artificial dyes to achieve their color. The thickness and structures of the fiber determines the color.
Self Cleaning Windows: Inspired by rough surface of the lotus leaf, self cleaning glass relies on the process of photocatalysis which utilizes UV rays from the sun to help break down organic and mineral based dirts that accumulate on the glass. Moisture from rain water (or your garden hose) forms a water film that rinses away the dirt. The surface of this specialized glass dries quickly and uniformly leaving windows virtually streak free!
I appreciate living in a city that is striving to be the Greenest City on Earth by 2020, and I know my choices help reach that goal. I hope you’re inspired and challenged to be more conscious of the choices you make (the more you realize what is available) as you engage with the world around you. Our great grandchildren will thank you!
Happy Earth Day 2011