Biomimicry Architecture 

13 February, 2024
Biomimicry Architecture

Guide to Biomimicry Architecture 

From the time of civilization, architects have always drawn inspiration from nature for the designs and functional structures of the establishments. Today, sustainability in the infrastructure is becoming a growing concern. The answer lies in the natural world for architects by creating environmentally friendly buildings inspired by the concepts found in nature or as the word suggests – Biomimicry in Architecture. This field of profession and research is known as biomimicry. 

The innovative approach coined by biomimicry helps to address the rising issues of humanity, which offers an unexplored and promising market area for architects, interiors, and construction companies. 

What is Biomimicry?

Biomimicry, derived from the Greek words “bios” meaning life, and “mimesis” meaning to imitate, is a design approach that draws inspiration from nature’s solutions to solve human challenges. It involves observing and emulating natural patterns, processes, and systems to create innovative and sustainable designs. By studying the way organisms adapt, evolve, and thrive in their environments, designers can uncover ingenious strategies for enhancing efficiency, resilience, and functionality in various fields including architecture, engineering, and product design.

Table of contents

  1. What is Biomimicry?
  2. Evolution of Biomimicry in Architecture
  3. Biomimetic Design Principles
  4. Biological Models in Architecture
  5. What makes biomimicry lucrative in the building industry for sustainable designing? 
  6. How nature becomes an integral part of biomimicry?
  7. The important components of successful biomimicry strategies 
  8. Process of incorporating biomimicry in a building development projects
  9. Sustainable Solutions through Biomimicry
  10. Top companies that implement biomimicry architecture
  11. The future of sustainable infrastructure lies in biomimicry 

Evolution of Biomimicry in Architecture

The evolution of biomimicry in architecture traces back to ancient civilizations where early architects drew inspiration from nature’s forms and structures to create enduring buildings. However, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that biomimicry gained prominence as a formalized design approach. Pioneering architects and researchers began recognizing the potential of biomimicry to address pressing environmental challenges and enhance the performance of buildings. With advancements in technology and interdisciplinary collaboration between biologists, engineers, and architects, biomimetic principles have been applied to a wide range of architectural projects, from energy-efficient buildings inspired by termite mounds to self-cooling structures modelled after desert plants.

Biomimetic Design Principles

Central to understanding biomimetic design is recognizing that nature has evolved over millions of years to optimize efficiency, resilience, and adaptability. By studying biological organisms and ecosystems, designers gain insights into ingenious strategies for resource management, energy efficiency, material selection, and structural integrity.

Moreover, biomimetic design transcends mere imitation of biological forms; it encompasses a deep appreciation of the underlying mechanisms and functions that enable nature’s innovations.


Key Principles and Concepts

Biomimetic design operates on several key principles and concepts that guide the development of nature-inspired solutions. These principles are rooted in the observation of biological systems and the translation of their strategies into human-made designs. Some key principles and concepts include:

  1. Functionality Over Form: Biomimetic design prioritizes functionality and performance, drawing inspiration from nature’s solutions to achieve optimal outcomes rather than merely replicating aesthetic features.
  2. Adaptation and Evolution: Biological organisms adapt and evolve in response to changing environmental conditions. Biomimetic designs incorporate adaptive features and evolutionary strategies to enhance resilience and longevity.
  3. Hierarchy and Network Dynamics: Biological systems exhibit hierarchical organization and interconnected networks. The biomimetic design leverages hierarchical structures and network dynamics to optimize efficiency, communication, and feedback loops.
  4. Material and Energy Efficiency: Nature operates within resource constraints, optimizing the use of materials and energy to minimize waste and maximize efficiency. Biomimetic design principles emphasize sustainable material selection, energy-efficient processes, and closed-loop systems.
  5. Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Biomimetic design requires collaboration between diverse disciplines, including biology, engineering, architecture, and materials science. Interdisciplinary teams leverage complementary expertise to translate biological principles into practical applications.


Case Studies Highlighting Successful Biomimetic Designs

Numerous case studies exemplify the successful application of biomimetic design principles across various fields, from architecture to product design to urban planning. Some notable examples include:

  1. Eastgate Centre, Zimbabwe: Modeled after termite mounds, the Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe utilizes passive cooling techniques inspired by the mound’s ventilation system. This biomimetic approach reduces energy consumption by up to 90% compared to conventional air-conditioned buildings.
  2. Velcro: Inspired by the burrs of burdock plants, Swiss engineer George de Mestral invented Velcro, a hook-and-loop fastening system. Mimicking the plant’s adhesive properties, Velcro revolutionized fastening technology and found widespread applications in clothing, aerospace, and medicine.
  3. Shinkansen Bullet Train: The design of the Shinkansen bullet train in Japan drew inspiration from the beak of the kingfisher bird. By mimicking the bird’s streamlined shape, engineers reduced noise levels and increased aerodynamic efficiency, improving the train’s speed and energy efficiency.
  4. BionicKangaroo Robot: Developed by Festo, the BionicKangaroo robot emulates the jumping motion of kangaroos. By studying the biomechanics of kangaroo locomotion, engineers created a robotic system capable of energy-efficient hopping and precise control, with potential applications in logistics and automation.

These case studies demonstrate the transformative potential of biomimetic design in solving real-world challenges and inspiring innovation across diverse industries. By learning from nature’s billions of years of R&D, designers can unlock novel solutions that are sustainable, efficient, and resilient.

Biological Models in Architecture

Learning from Nature’s Blueprints

Nature serves as a vast repository of blueprints for architectural innovation. From the intricate patterns of leaves to the resilient structures of shells, biological organisms offer a wealth of inspiration for architects seeking to create sustainable and efficient designs. By observing nature’s forms, functions, and processes, architects can derive principles and strategies that optimize space utilization, enhance energy efficiency, and promote user well-being. Learning from nature’s blueprints involves not just mimicking superficial appearances but understanding the underlying principles that govern form and function, allowing for the creation of innovative and holistic architectural solutions.

Animal and Plant-Based Inspirations

Animal and plant-based inspirations provide rich sources of ideas for architectural design. For example:

  1. Burj Khalifa’s Structural Design: Inspired by the efficiency and strength of a spider’s silk, the structural design of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai incorporates a bundled tube system, mimicking the strength-to-weight ratio found in natural spider webs.
  2. Eden Project’s Biomes: The design of the Eden Project’s biomes, which house diverse ecosystems, draws inspiration from soap bubbles and the efficient geometry found in plant cells. The lightweight and transparent structures optimize natural light penetration while minimizing material usage.
  3. Biomimetic Facades: Biomimetic facades, such as those inspired by the self-shading properties of palm leaves or the iridescence of butterfly wings, utilize innovative materials and geometries to regulate temperature, optimize daylighting, and enhance aesthetics in buildings.
  4. Termitary House: Modeled after termite mounds, the Termitary House in Vietnam incorporates passive cooling techniques inspired by the mound’s ventilation system. This biomimetic approach reduces energy consumption and enhances thermal comfort within the building.
Eastgate Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe - Biomimicry in architecture

Eastgate Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe

What makes biomimicry lucrative in the building industry for sustainable designing? 

  1. Large-scale sustainability: Without active participation, a biomimicry-inspired building can create a huge difference with the use of eco-friendly materials, energy-saving systems, and specifically designed structures that create a circular pattern that reduces wastage. 
  2. Improved impact: Biomimicry is not limited to being environmentally friendly, but also creating highly efficient designs that improve the performance of the building. 
  3. First mover advantage: Biomimicry can give you a competitive edge as more firms are looking for sustainability solutions. 

How nature becomes an integral part of biomimicry?

A significant part of biomimicry as a discipline is investigating how nature operates, targeting how the components of nature create and solve complex issues. Initially, biomimicry learning was applied to major architectural structures in city buildings and now it is expanding to the commercial world. There are three prominent applicable areas to study biomimicry – structure, processes, and systems. These areas can be innovated by looking into nature’s biological processes and biomaterials. 

Nature has been building, regulating, and creating structures before humanity, without wasting anything. This has inspired architects to apply strategic methods that can assist in creating high-value designs to solve complex infrastructure challenges. 

The important components of successful biomimicry strategies 

There are different ways in which architects, interior designers, and construction companies can create an impact on biomimicry designs. Implementing an effective design can enhance the building’s aesthetics, building performance and contribute to building a sustainable environment. 

Focusing on the structure

There are countless inspirations from nature to recreate functional and aesthetic forms. These structures need to be focused on being energy efficient, stable, sustainable, and visually appealing. 


Material selection

Another crucial part of a study in biomimicry is understanding the components of different materials, to minimize the environmental impact of the design on nature. Bio-based materials that are renewable, degradable, or at least recyclable can be a better sustainable alternative to traditional building materials. 


Energy-efficient designs

Optimizing energy consumption is a significant area for the clients to look into. It can also be integrated creating innovative biomimicry strategies. The designers can ensure that the structures can support systems for sustainable cooling, heating, water management, and other energy-saving systems. 


Biophilic Design

Biophilic design is all about integrating natural materials, patterns, and features. It aims to link people with nature, boost well-being, and elevate life quality by integrating natural elements like materials, light, plants, and nature-inspired patterns into indoor and urban spaces. 


Applicable and sustainable

One of nature’s striking features is that it is very adaptable and responds to changes, which can be seen in its designs. This inspires the architects to create buildings that are sustainable for long and adaptable to changing environments. This targets to create structures that can withstand extreme conditions and natural disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis. 

Process of incorporating biomimicry in a building development projects

Creating a viable concept

One of the main challenges for the architecture is to study the applicable strategies for a specific project that will help to reach the target set. It helps the architects to explore a variety of features and components in the project. 


Selecting materials

Different areas in the project would require suitable material that is functional, sustainable and integrates with the target set for the concept. 


Developing design

The impact of biomimicry is in the details. It is important to focus on the design and arrangements of the materials for it to coordinate with the base concept laid down. 


Innovative construction techniques

Some of the new construction techniques like 3D printing or modular assembly will help to save resources, and time and improve efficiency in building structures. 


Implementation and evaluation

Once the structure becomes functional, it is important to take continuous evaluation periodically and refine future projects. 

Sustainable Solutions through Biomimicry

Biomimicry offers innovative solutions for sustainability by mimicking nature’s wisdom. It helps create resource-efficient designs. Here’s how:

Energy Efficiency through Biomimetic Designs

Biomimetic solar panels mimic leaf structures, enhancing energy capture. The Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe, inspired by termite mounds, uses passive cooling systems, reducing energy consumption significantly.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Strategies

Circular material economies emulate nature’s nutrient cycles, reducing waste. Projects like BioCouture create biodegradable materials, inspired by natural decomposition processes.

Climate Adaptation and Resilience Inspired by Nature

Bioclimatic building designs optimize heating and cooling, as seen in the Eden Project’s biomes. Green infrastructure, like the Singapore Changi Airport’s Jewel, mimics ecosystems, managing water and promoting biodiversity.

Biomimicry and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Contribution of Biomimicry to SDGs:

  1. SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy: Biomimetic designs for energy-efficient buildings and renewable energy technologies contribute to reducing energy poverty and promoting clean energy access.
  2. SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities: Biomimetic urban planning strategies, such as green infrastructure and bioclimatic building designs, enhance urban resilience, promote biodiversity, and improve quality of life in cities.
  3. SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: Biomimetic approaches to materials and manufacturing promote resource efficiency, waste reduction, and circular economy principles, contributing to sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  4. SDG 13: Climate Action: Nature-inspired solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation, such as green roofs and carbon-sequestering materials, help address climate change impacts and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. SDG 15: Life on Land: Biomimetic designs for habitat restoration, soil conservation, and reforestation support biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration efforts, contributing to terrestrial ecosystem health.


Addressing Global Challenges through Nature-Inspired Solutions

Case Studies of biomimicry in architecture aligning with SDGs

  1. Water Management Inspired by Desert Beetles (SDG 6): Researchers develop biomimetic fog collection systems inspired by the water-harvesting abilities of desert beetles, providing clean water access in arid regions and addressing water scarcity challenges.
  2. Vertical Farming Inspired by Forest Canopies (SDG 2): Biomimetic vertical farming systems mimic the structure and functionality of forest canopies, maximizing agricultural productivity in urban areas while minimizing land and water usage, and contributing to food security and sustainable agriculture.
  3. Ocean Cleanup Inspired by Manta Rays (SDG 14): Biomimetic ocean cleanup technologies, inspired by the filter-feeding behaviour of manta rays, remove plastic pollution from marine environments, support marine conservation efforts and preserve ocean ecosystems.

Top companies that implement biomimicry architecture

  1. Biomimicry 3.8: This consulting firm specializes in applying biomimicry principles across various industries, including architecture. They offer expertise in integrating nature-inspired solutions into building design to enhance sustainability and efficiency.
  2. HOK: HOK, a global architecture and engineering firm, has incorporated biomimicry into several projects. Their designs often draw inspiration from natural systems to create innovative and sustainable buildings that harmonize with their surroundings.
  3. Arup: Arup is renowned for its commitment to sustainability and innovation in architecture and engineering. The firm has integrated biomimetic principles into projects such as the Eden Project’s biomes, where they applied nature-inspired strategies for climate control and energy efficiency.
  4. Gensler: Gensler is one of the world’s largest architecture firms, known for its innovative and sustainable designs. They have utilized biomimicry in projects such as the Shanghai Tower, where the building’s design was optimized to reduce wind loads by drawing inspiration from natural forms and structures.
  5. Biomimicry Institute: While not a traditional architecture firm, the Biomimicry Institute plays a crucial role in promoting biomimicry adoption across various disciplines, including architecture. They provide resources, training, and support for architects interested in incorporating nature-inspired design principles into their projects.

The future of sustainable infrastructure lies in biomimicry 

By making a significant execution of biomimicry in building design, architects and other construction professionals can create a sustainable future and promising opportunities for innovation. These approaches create energy-efficient building solutions that are streamlined and give professionals a competitive edge in the market. 

Industry professionals must stay informed about the latest innovations and sustainable techniques. By being updated about time-tested strategies and upcoming innovations, it becomes easier to create a sustainable infrastructure on a large scale.

This video by Vox is a great explainer of Biomimicry architecture.

Biomimicry Architecture Examples

  1. Bahrain World Trade Center: The design of this twin-tower complex was influenced by the shape of desert sails and incorporates wind turbines inspired by traditional Arabian windcatchers for renewable energy generation.
  2. Biomimetic Pavilion, Barcelona: Designed by architects at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, this pavilion mimics the structure and growth patterns of trees using computational design and 3D printing techniques.
  3. The Bullitt Center, Seattle, USA: Modeled after a forest ecosystem, this commercial building incorporates passive design strategies, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting systems to achieve net-zero energy and water usage.
  4. The Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe), London, UK: Inspired by the Venus flower basket sponge, this iconic skyscraper features a spiralling form that optimizes natural ventilation and reduces energy consumption.
  5. Sustainable Tree-Inspired Pavilion, Singapore: This pavilion, inspired by the structure and growth patterns of trees, uses sustainable materials and passive cooling strategies to create a comfortable microclimate for users.
  6. The Hive, Kew Gardens, UK: Inspired by the structure of beehives, this immersive art installation serves as a symbol of pollinator conservation and highlights the interconnectedness of ecosystems.
  7. The Solar Orchid, Singapore: This residential development draws inspiration from the orchid flower, incorporating passive solar design principles and green roofs to optimize energy efficiency and thermal comfort.


What is biomimicry?

Biomimicry is an innovative design approach that draws inspiration from nature to solve human challenges. It involves emulating biological systems, processes, and strategies found in nature to create sustainable and efficient solutions.


What is biomimicry in architecture?

Biomimicry in architecture refers to the application of nature-inspired design principles in building and urban design. It involves studying natural forms, functions, and processes to create buildings that are more sustainable, resilient, and harmonious with the environment.


What are some famous examples of biomimicry in architecture?

Famous examples of biomimicry in architecture include the Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe, inspired by termite mounds for passive cooling, and the Eden Project Biomes in the UK, mimicking natural ecosystems for sustainable building design.


What are the principles of biomimicry architecture?

The principles of biomimicry architecture involve emulating nature’s strategies for efficiency, resilience, and adaptation. These include studying natural forms, optimizing energy and material use, and integrating ecosystems into the built environment.


Why do architects use biomimicry?

Architects use biomimicry to create buildings that are more sustainable, efficient, and resilient. By drawing inspiration from nature, architects can design structures that minimize environmental impact, optimize performance, and enhance human well-being.


What are the characteristics of biomimicry?

Characteristics of biomimicry include innovation, sustainability, and adaptability. Biomimetic designs often incorporate natural materials, shapes, and processes to achieve optimal functionality while minimizing resource use and environmental impact.


What are the benefits of biomimicry?

The benefits of biomimicry include enhanced sustainability, improved efficiency, and increased resilience. By learning from nature’s solutions, biomimicry can lead to innovative design approaches that address complex challenges while promoting environmental stewardship and human well-being.


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