Biomimicry – The Emerging Architectural Trend

Biomimicry is the new sliced bread, only it is on a global scale and just might save us from ourselves. After centuries of decimating the earth, humans are now finding ways to live with a minimal carbon footprint. This is all happening in the world of-wait for it-architecture.


The point of this architectural trend is to discover how nature has protected its own over the last 3.5 billion years. If some of these methods can be imitated to work for humans without a deeply damaging carbon footprint, the earth might survive another few centuries. Buildings do not have to look like natural phenomena, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they need to function like them.

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation department described possible inroads of this focus. Solving human problems may include: “Glues that cling like a mollusk does. Devices that capture energy like a leaf does. Computers that work like a brain does. Buildings that control their climate like a termite mound.”

The Termite Mound

Speaking of the termite mound, there is a building in Harare, Zimbabwe that has modeled itself on that very thing. Why would anyone want to do this? Termite mounds in the desert control their temperature levels to within one degree, no matter what the outside temperature is. The outside temperature ranges from over 100 degrees Fahrenheit to about 36 degrees Fahrenheit, but the termites have overcome the climate.

The Eastgate Building in Zimbabwe uses 90% less energy than conventional buildings of the same size. Those termites know what they’re doing. The architect, Mick Pearce, and the engineers from the Arup Association have figured out what the termites know. This building has saved over $3.5 million in air conditioning costs.

More Desert Discoveries

Not the sole realm of environmental science, water purification and food production in the desert is under study right now in Qatar, Doha, on the coast of the Gulf of Oman. The Sahara Forest Project is using combined technologies to learn how to bring food and water to deserts around the world.

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The catch is how to get seawater to a facility if it is not on the coast. The area had to be designed to function as a synergistic machine, using solar power, water condensation and algae production, among other systems, to produce food, clean energy and fresh water. The ultimate goal is to find ways to allow human populations to live and work in such areas without detriment to themselves or nature.

Success in Progress

Michael Pawlyn’s book, Biomimicry in Architecture, has catapulted him into speaking engagements around the world, and his book is the subject of many architectural ideas and discussions. He has written of water purification systems that have no waste at all. He also mentions that there are several ways to turn human body waste into fertilizer, as we speak, or read; this is done with almost no water.

His architectural, biomimicry direction goes toward seven important issues to consider, in using biomimicry, such as structural efficiency, material manufacture, zero-waste systems, water, energy generation, thermal environments and biometric products. So many environmental problems can be solved all at one time using this theory. Scientists and architects are working on the solution.


Natural systems must live in concert with each other to survive, and biomimicry models this phenomenon by creating ways to use various technologies together to live in a healthy way, without destroying environments.

Lindsey Davison is a freelance writer writing on behalf of Personal Home Loan Mortgages, where you can find low mortgage rates for your home.

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