Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks, Wikipedia

Support Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a free resource I use every day and my work would be so much more complicated without having this one place to look up scientific topics, read their synopsis and follow their links.  It is a non-profit entity and looking for donor support.  I encourage you to support their mission.

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
—Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Biomimicry in Buildings: A Work in Progress

Missing photo credit.  File no longer found.
The integration of biomimicry into the built environment is a work in progress and I am continually looking for models that explore its potential.  Below are my thoughts as of now and I am hoping to continue this discussion for years to come.
  • Biomimicry and Living Buildings.  I have heard that the Living Building Challenge was inspired by biomimicry, but I don't know this for a fact.  Even if it weren't, many of its principles are the same: building performance tied to regional characteristics (life's principle to be locally attuned & responsive), limits to growth (integrate growth with development), zero impact (material/energy efficiency), and integrating beauty.  I can think of many building products and a few examples of partial systems integration (the living waste water treatment eco-machine at the Omega Center or various products, as quick examples), but I can think of only one building (Eastgate Center in Zimbabwe) where it has been integrated on both a metophorical as well as performance basis.  I am constantly searching for more examples of building integrated biomimicry and would welcome any suggestions that come my way.
  • Nature as Measure.  Similar to the zero impact prerequisite set by the Living Buildings Challenge, using the inherent ecosystem services of a site as a measure to benchmark the ecological performance of a particular building is very powerful.  If a site was formally prairie that absorbed and held x gallons of water, y number of species, and z tons of biomass, designers can strive to create buildings that strive to meet or exceed this threshold.  I especially like the Mannahatta Project as an example because as a virtual ecological restoration of the island of Manhattan, it holds the genius of the original place as a benchmark by which the ecological performance of a site.  Are there similar efforts in other regions of the world?
  • Biomimicry in Existing Buildings.  I've started having conversations about biomimicry in existing buildings with architects all across the country.  This is a potentially amazing solution space that is relevant to all major developed cities across the globe.  Beyond integrating biomimicry inspired products into interior fit-outs, how can we begin to emulate life in existing structures?  How does nature reuse materials?  How does nature adapt to changing conditions?  How can our buildings evolve to survive?  And what are natural models that can help guide our search?  This is usually discussed in a metaphorical sense, but I am continually looking for tangible manefestations of this on individual existing buildings. 
  • Systems Interaction.  Finally (for now), there are many parallels to how the components of an ecosystem interact and how the components of a building interact.  Systems are systems and I know there are exciting lessons to be learned in this space.  
This is just the beginning and I welcome any and all thoughts from interested parties.

Interesting References (courtesy of Dayna Baumeister)
http://www.d3space.org/competitions/ (previous competitions, natural systems)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Upcoming Events!

Come hear about Biomimicry at the next Foresight Green Drinks in Chicago!  
November 16th at 5:30pm (panel starts around 6:30)!  I'll be on a panel with Lindsay James of InterfaceFLOR and Colin Rohlfing of HOK, facilitated by Peter Nicholson - all Biomimicry Chicago core group members!

Biomimicry, the practice of learning from nature to solve human design problems, is emerging as a powerful tool for creating more sustainable solutions. Applied at a variety of scales, from individual products to buildings to organizations, biomimcry brings nature's 3.8 billion years of innovation experience to the design table.  This month's panel examines this quickly evolving practice, reviewing what it is, how it is being applied, the tangible advancements it has already produced, and the powerful potential for the future. Of specific interest to designers, architects, entrepreneurs, biologists, and related others, the conversation will be wide ranging and inspiring to anyone with a concern for a more vibrant and resilient future. Come learn more about this exciting field, and the new emerging network, Biomimicry Chicago.
And if you are out in the Northeast Illinois region, check out a CEU level presentation I'll be giving on Biomimicry for the AIA NEI Committee on the Environment.  November 10th at Wight & Co in Darien, IL.  
Nature is inherently sustainable and has been for over 3.8 billion years.  While we have been designing our world on a mass scale for approximately 200 years, our evolutionary elders have found a way to fit in on this planet for millennia.  Perhaps they have something to teach us? The emerging practice of biomimicry brings nature’s problem solving solutions to the design table by studying the processes, products, and performance of life on earth and translating their lessons into the language of design.