The term “biomimicry” is so new that my spell-check doesn’t recognize it. But the concept is not only real, it’s as old as the world itself, some 3.8 billion years. The built world just forgot to apply it for the past few centuries.Simply, biomimicry calls for design professionals to not just consider the natural surroundings of a place, but to imitate it in their work providing housing or any sort of built environment.
The result is a place that sincerely integrates with nature and supports our natural inclinations. “I believe we are hardwired to be an integral part of nature,” says Bob Berkebile, FAIA, the founding principal of BNIM Architects in Kansas City, Mo., and the chair of the Vision 2020 Regenerative Design topic area, of which biomimicry is a cornerstone tenet. “Giving our sensory systems the opportunity for joy, connection, and relaxation makes a lot of sense.”That can be done to some degree by mimicking or actually bringing a location’s natural landscape—including water—into a built environment, and orienting a place toward the best views of nature and to achieve optimum daylight. Whatever the surrounding palette provides.
Biomimicry also applies to the development of building materials, such as a leaf inspiring a solar panel or a water collector. “The built world is not as mature as other sectors in that respect,” says Berkebile, “but that will expand dramatically.”He points to organizations such as the Biomimicry Institute (www.biomimicryinstitute.org, which offers the Biomimicry Design Spiral as a tool) and the Biomimicry Guild (www.biomimicry.net, featuring a short video), which combined forces in 2011 to drive the concept home.If it still seems too “out there” for the current world, consider that nature is the master of adapting and evolving to its environment; what can’t or won’t is unlikely to survive.