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Biomimicry: the answer to environmentally sustainable architecture? A dissertation presented to the Department of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde 2015 / 2016

Annabelle Joy Brading | 201112053

Tutor | Branka Dimitrijevic

Declaration AB 420 Dissertation 2015/16 BSc Honours Architectural Studies BSc Honours Architectural Studies with International Study MArch/Pg Dip Advanced Architectural Design MArch Architectural Design International

Declaration “I hereby declare that this dissertation submission is my own work and has been composed by myself. It contains no unacknowledged text and has not been submitted in any previous context. All quotations have been distinguished by quotation marks and all sources of information, text, illustration, tables, images etc. have been specifically acknowledged. I accept that if having signed this Declaration my work should be found at Examination to show evidence of academic dishonesty the work will fail and I will be liable to face the University Senate Discipline Committee.”











Statement of Originality and Authenticity


Contents Page of Figures








Research Method


Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development 01.1 The development of the Industrial Revolution


01.2 From mass production to over-consumption


01.3 Why do we need sustainable architecture?




Biomimicry 02.1 What is biomimicry?


02.2 Examples of biomimicry


02.3 Limitations of biomimetic architecture


Case Study 03.1 Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park



Discussion 04.1 Analysis and potential future research






CONTENTS PAGE OF FIGURES Figures Used on Cover Pages

Figure 1.1| Front and Back Cover: Author’s Own (2016) Photograph taken by Jay Mantri Available at: [Accessed 7th March 2016] Figure 1.2 | Acknowledgements & Abstract: Authors Own (2016) Image is an abstract sketch of man and nature Available at: [Accessed 22nd February 2016]

Figure 1.3 | Introduction: Authors Own (2016) Manipulated Photographs by Sali Boli showing the effects of Industrial Revolution Available at: [Accessed 25th February 2016] Figure 1.4 | Research Method: Authors Own (2016) Photograph of nature inside a light bulb by Adrian Limani (2012) Available at: [Accessed 4th March 2016] Figure 1.5 | Background 01.1: Authors Own (2016) Photograph of train from the Industrial Revolution by Mike Spencer (2008) Available at: [Accessed 22nd February 2016]

Figure 1.6 | Background 01.2: Authors Own (2016) Photograph of the Titanic at its launch in Belfast, Northern Ireland (1912) Available at: [Accessed 25th February 2016] Figure 1.7 | Background 01.3: Authors Own (2016) Photograph of a couple in gas masks getting married in Beijing by HAP (2014) Available at: [Accessed 25th February 2016]


Figure 1.8 | Literature Review 02.1: Authors Own (2016) Image of a cross-section through a three year old lime tree Available at: [Accessed 29th February 2016] Figure 1.9 | Literature Review 02.2: Authors Own (2016) Photograph of Blue Morpho Butterflies Available at: [Accessed 29th February 2016] Figure 1.10 | Literature Review 02.3: Authors Own (2016) Photograph of Honeycomb Housing Available at: [Accessed 1st March 2016] Figure 1.11 | Case Study 03.1: Authors Own (2016) Photograph of the Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park Available at: [Accessed 3rd March 2016] Figure 1.12 | Analysis 04.1: Authors Own (2016) Photograph of Amazon Rainforest Available at: [Accessed 22nd February 2016]

Figure 1.13 | Conclusion: Authors Own (2016) Image is a render of the conceptual Tree Hopper project by OTCO Architects Available at: [Accessed 6th March 2016]


Figures Used Within Text Figure 1|Diagram showing Inductive Research: Authors Own (2016) Image adapted from Research Methodology (2016a) Available at: [Accessed 21st November 2015] Figure 2|Table of designs created within the Industrial Revolution and the corresponding years: Authors Own (2016) Figure 3|Pie Chart of Energy Consumption by Sector: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from Architecture (2030)’s case study (2012) Available at: [Accessed 2nd February 2016] Figure 4|Circles of Sustainability: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from composite creative Available at: [Accessed 27th February 2016] Figure 5|Resource flow in the building ecosystem: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from Kim and Rigdon (1998) Figure 6|Drawing of a building ecosystems linear cycle: Samuel Castano (Artist) Available at: [Accessed 3rd January 2016] Figure 7|The Vetruvian Man: Leonardo Di Vinci Available at: [Accessed 6th March 2016] Figure 8|Restoration of Buckminster Fuller’s iconic Fly’s Eye Dome at America’s Cup: ArchDaily Available at: [Accessed 6th March 2016] Figure 9|Santiago Calatrava’s art museum in Milwaukee, America. Available at: [Accessed 6th March 2016]


Figure 10|Diagram showing how to begin to apply biomimicry to design at all three levels (Verbeek, 2011) Available at: [Accessed 10th February 2016] Figure 11|Comparison of biological systems and human-made systems: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from Pawlyn (2011) Figure 12|A Humpback whales interesting flippers Available at: [Accessed 27th December 2015] Figure 13|Whalecorporation Turbine inspired by these flippers Available at: [Accessed 27th February 2016] Figure 14|Diagram of the adaptable pine cone Available at: [Accessed 7th February 2016] Figure 15|Responsive material inspired by the pine cone Available at: [Accessed 7th February 2016] Figure 16|The responsive material could be used to create small shelters and further intelligent cladding systems Available at: [Accessed 7th December 2015] Figure 17|Diagram explaining how an oak tree performs like an ecosystem to conserve material, enery and water and the synergies within it: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from Drake (2011) Available at: [Accessed 15th February 2016]


Figure 18|A conceptual image of the Mobius Project by Exploration Architecture Available at: [Accessed 10th February 2016] Figure 19|Diagram showing the Mobius Project performing like an ecosystem: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from Pawlyn (2011) Figure 20|Wright Brothers with their aeroplane that was inspired by birds in 1904 Available at: [Accessed 27th December 2015] Figure 21|A series of bombs that were dropped by German Gotha aeroplanes in World War One (1914-1918) Available at: Bomben.jpg [Accessed 27th December 2015] Figure 22|Nine core elements of Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park Available at: [Accessed 22nd February 2016] Figure 23|Aerial view of Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park in Denmark Available at: [Accessed 22nd February 2016] Figure 24|View from around the AsnĂŚs power station Available at: [Accessed 22nd February 2016] Figure 25|Diagram of how Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park uses ecosystem thinking: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from Suarez (2012) literature Available at: pdf [Accessed 15th February 2016]


Figure 26|Comparison of biological systems and human-made systems: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from Pawlyn (2011) Figure 27|X-ray of bird skulls showing structural make up Available at: [Accessed 25th February 2016] Figure 28|Zoomed x-ray of bird skull showing more detail Available at: [Accessed 25th February 2016] Figure 29|Elephant Foot Plant (Discorea Elephantipes) Available at: [Accessed 22nd February 2016] Figure 30|Aerial view of the Everglades in Florida, America by Allan Detrich (2009) Available at: [Accessed 4th March 2016] Figure 31|Aerial view of London, England by Thomas Boelaars (2007) Available at: [Accessed 4th March 2016] Figure 32|Figure 32: Table of ecosystem services a city should aim to use as ‘metrics’: Authors Own (2016) Adapted from Benyus (2014) online video Available at: [Accessed 26th February 2016]





The initial interest to research this topic

topics. I would like to take this opportunity to

spurred from my exchange to Sweden in third

thank all those who have offered their time

year, here I was taught about the subject

and support to me through the completion of

of biomimicry and the sustainable small-

this dissertation. I would like to thank my family

scale designs it had inspired. This prompted

for their endless support and patience. I would

my enthusiasm to research if nature could

also like to give a special thank-you to all of

motivate architects to design environmentally

the staff in the Architectural department of

responsive structures that will benefit the planet

The University of Strathclyde for their warm and

in the long term. As a result, this became the

valuable teachings and the effort they have

basis of this dissertation. I would therefore like

put into my development. Finally, I would like

to give thanks to the University of Chalmers

to thank Branka Dimitrijevic for her continual

for their wonderful teaching of inspirational

support while writing this dissertation.



Discursive perspectives have outlined the

incorporated biomimetic ecosystem thinking,



the research provides a critical analysis of

Revolution has had on design and the need for

both the positive and negative outcomes

sustainable architecture as a consequence.

of applying biomimicry at building scale. It

This research explores biological models at the

concludes that while this technique could

three different levels of biomimicry (organism,

be applied at the organism level, significant

process and ecosystem) in order to determine


the extent to which biomimicry (design inspired

ecosystem levels of biomimicry that would

by nature) can influence environmentally

require to be overcome if this approach were

sustainable design in the built environment.

to influence the development of future cities.









With consideration to the Kalundborg EcoIndustrial Park, an architectural model that has




“From my designer’s perspective,

Through the rapid consumption of our fossil

I ask: Why can’t I design a

fuels and the subsequent increase in the rate

building like a tree? A building

of global warming, we as a species should

that makes oxygen, fixes nitrogen,

arguably reflect on our actions and consider

sequesters carbon, distils water,

if we can mitigate the damage we have so

builds soil, accrues solar energy

easily reaped?

as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates microclimates,

One answer is Mother Nature. Living organisms

changes colours with the seasons

have managed to exist in total harmony with

and self replicates. This is using

the world she created, for billions of years

nature as a model and a mentor,

(Benyus, 2002). Through analysing specific

not as an inconvenience. It’s a

biological examples we could begin to

delightful prospect...” (Braungart

develop a true synchronisation between man

& McDonough, 2008)

and nature (Baumeister et al., 2014).

BI-O-MIM-IC-RY is design inspired by nature

Biomimicry (design inspired by nature) has

and comes from the Greek ‘mımos’, which

been applied to small-scale examples but has

means mimic and ‘bios,’ which means life

arguably not been successful in architecture

(Benyus, 2002).

due to its complexity (Pawlyn, 2011). The idea


of using nature as the ultimate inspiration is an

reject toxins, and work as a system to

exciting and interesting topic to explore.

create conditions conducive to life” (Baumeister et al., 2014).

Dayna Baumeister, a doctor and professor of practice at Arizona State University and

We could therefore assume that biomimicry

co-writer of the book Biomimicry 3.8, outlines

not only means respecting nature but asking

the idea that nature has resolved numerous

for its advice before we design. Baumeister et

predicaments we currently face and how to

al (2014) use the term ‘Life’s Genius’ to explain

apply this to design. By analysing the three

that natural design is more than intelligent,

levels of organism, process and ecosystem,

as it does not only apply itself to maintain

architects could learn to mimic these designs:

“one life but all life on Earth.” To understand nature’s design on a much deeper level we

“Biomimicry is learning from and then

must therefore understand the three levels of

emulating natural forms, processes,

biomimicry: “nature as a model, nature as a

and ecosystems to create more

measure and nature as a mentor” (Benyus,



2002). The first is mimicking natural form, for

these earth-savvy designs can help

example Antonio Gaudi used inspiration from

humans leapfrog to technologies

the tree outside his window to create the

that sip energy, shave material use,

structural forest of the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi



once said, “originality is returning to the origin”

building ecosystem in the way a tree does. A

(Berlin, 2010) for him this meant returning to

tree not only supports itself but also gives life to

nature, which can be seen in his designs.

a network of animals and plants, so why could a building not do the same?

The second level mimics the natural process

This dissertation will consider the contrasting

of how things are designed as Benyus (2002)

effect the industrial revolution has had on

explains “after 3.8 billion years of evolution,

design and examine the influence biomimicry

nature has learned: What works. What is

has had on design solutions. Ultimately, this

appropriate. What lasts.” For example not

dissertation seeks to ascertain the extent to

using trees as inspiration for form but looking

which biomimicry can influence sustainable

at how they sequester carbon and applying


this process to technology. To achieve this, the author will undertake Finally, the last level of biomimicry is mimicking

an investigation into the development of

an ecosystem. The tree is within a forest, which

biological progression in order to determine

is within a biome, which is within the biosphere

if this can solve architectural challenges

(Baumeister et al., 2014). With this in mind, we

and create a positive, sustainable future.

need to ask ourselves how to invent products,

By considering examples from nature for

which are both sustainable and provide for a

inspiration, the author will seek to establish the


potential for architectural development and

of biomimicry at a building scale and the

ultimately the extent to which biomimicry can

potential to influence future cities.

influence environmentally sustainable design in the built environment.


The research will comprise the following

Key issues identified within research and


consideration of the application of biomimicry to the field of architecture

The Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development


The consequences of the Industrial Revolution

Research outcomes and potential areas for


future research





sustainable architectural solutions Before consideration of the Implications of the Biomimicry

industrial revolution, this dissertation will firstly

The inspiration of nature and its application to

outline the applied research method.

architecture and future design

Case Study Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park: An analysis




This chapter focuses on outlining the

• Research the effectiveness biomimicry

methods of research chosen to explore

has had on evolving technologies and

the research aim and the theoretical

architectural functions.

justifications for implementing this method of research.

• Analyse





architecture to work harmoniously with the Aim:

environment through analysis of a practical

To determine the extent to which biomimicry


can influence environmentally sustainable design in the built environment

• Identify the future improvements biomimicry can make to architectural design.

Objectives: To achieve the aim, the following research

Inductive research was chosen as opposed

objectives will be completed:

to deductive, qualitative or quantitative research. Due to the specific research chosen

• Identify





the methodology chapter is placed at the

Industrial Revolution to our planet and

beginning of the dissertation. This requires

why this has generated the importance

finding a pattern within the research rather

of sustainable architectural design.

than having a theory and testing it.





must be tested to prove if it is right or wrong.


“Deduction begins with an expected pattern

according to Bryman & Bell, (2003) it is

that is tested against observations, whereas



with, not



quantitative to


approach, on





induction begins with observations and seeks



to find a pattern within them� (Research

Qualitative research was also considered

Methodology, 2016b).

not beneficial, as it is a phenomenological approach, which is concerned with thoughts,

The author feels the method of inductive

feelings and attitudes of participants, involved

research will provide the most effective

in the research study. As this dissertation aims

source of data, as comparing and contrasting

to analyse theory and practice, applying a

research is essential to address the aim.

research method that supports comparing

Although deductive research would also do

and contrasting data was essential.

this, the nature of the topic requires the author to observe and identify patterns which will then

According to Kitchen & Tate (2000) inductive

lead to a theory of whether we can apply the

and deductive reasoning highlights the extent

idea to atrchitecture or not.

to which theory and practice are connected. Deductive research begins with a theory,

The inductive approach begins by making

which is then developed into a hypothesis and











Figure 1: Diagram showing the Inductive Approach


pattern will develop resulting in an end theory (Research Methodology, 2016a). Figure 1 explains that the inductive method does not require theory at the start of the research; this may develop throughout the process of the dissertation. As a result, no theories need to be tested throughout as they develop through learning: “patterns, resemblances and regularities in experience (premises) are observed in order to reach conclusions (or to generate theory)� (Research Methodology, 2016a). This dissertation will therefore give consideration to a range of source material including related literature, journal articles, research, relevant published reports, and other related academic materials in order to arrive at a theory.


THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 01.1 The development of the Industrial Revolution




Hydrogen Powered Car


Steam Locamotive


Reinforced Concrete






Incandescent Light Bulb


Brooklyn Bridge Opened


Petrol Powered Car


Eiffel Tower


First Aeroplane Flies


First Mass Produced Car


Titanic Set Sail


Radio Tuner


Short Wave Radio


First Robot Built




Atomic Bomb


Figure 2: Table of designs created within the Industrial Revolution and the corresponding years


The Industrial Revolution began as early as the

power locomotives, ships and factory machines.

16th century in Nottingham where the Stocking


Frame was invented, a mechanical device for

advanced by allowing raw materials to be

knitting stockings (Landow, 2012). It was at its

transferred much faster than the previous horse

peak between the 19th and mid 20th centuries,

powered methods. Communication was made

during which time it was largely attributed with

easier with the invention of the telephone and

creating the developed world as we now know

telegraph, in turn expanding the demand and

it. However, as Braungart and McDonough

market for businesses, creating more jobs and

(2008) state: this development was created at

ultimately opportunities for people in the cities

the expense of our world and its resources.

(Staff,, 2009b). However, all this was





arguably created at the expense of our planets Figure 2 displays the variation and progression

natural resources (Goodall, 2012).

of design in many fields during this time period. As the standard of technology increased, so did the ability to design and mass-produce goods at a lower cost.

This subsequently improved

the standard of living as products were more affordable and accessible for consumption on a large scale (Staff,, 2009b).

The steam engine was a very important design in this transformation, as it had the ability to 29

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 01.2 From mass production to over-consumption


On April 10, 1912 one of mankind’s

in its design presage tragedy and

greatest industrial accomplishments left

disaster” (Braungart & McDonough,

Southampton, England and set sail for New


York - the ocean liner Titanic. Behe (2015) describes Titans as “a race of people vainly

Britain was the birthplace of the Industrial

striving to overcome the forces of nature”

Revolution due to its abundance of fossil

and nothing could explain the period of

fuels in the form of iron ore and coal (Staff,

the Industrial Revolution better. Braungart, 2009a). Fossil fuels take millions of

& McDonough note in their famous book,

years to form from the decomposing tissue of

Cradle to Cradle, that the vessel is a brilliant

dead plants and animals (Goodall, 2012). Oil,

metaphor for the Industrial Revolution:

natural gas and coal are the three carbonrich fuels created in this process (Senior,


2015). Through the continued need to grow


industry and develop technology, we now

brutish and artificial sources of

know that these natural resources are running

energy that are environmentally

out. However, the question of exactly when

depleting. It pours waste into the

is a difficult one (Senior, 2015). Chris Goodall

water and smoke into the sky. It

(2012) explains in his book Sustainability that

attempts to work by its own rules,

“it is indisputable that there are vast reserves

which are contrary to those of

of fuels left”. Natural gas is expected to last

nature. And although it may seem

for 50 years (Senior, 2015) and oil is to run out

invincible, the fundamental flaws

between 2025 and 2070 (Senior, 2015). It could




famous is




therefore be contested that these are not

alternative solutions to stop damaging our

‘vast’ reserves, as we will run out of most fossil

planet or there will be severe consequences for

fuels within our lifetime and certainly within the

the next generation (Senior, 2015). Renewable

next generation’s lifetime. Our only realistic

energy is a possibility and already makes a

option in the short terms would be to use coal

significant contribution to energy generation

as it has the largest reserves and can be found

around the world. In 2014 it overtook nuclear

and mined cheaply almost anywhere in the

energy as Scotland’s main power source

world (Goodall, 2012). If we were to continue

(Shankleman, 2014). However, it is dependent

using coal at the rate we do it would “last over

on provision from the renewable source in

a thousand years” (Senior, 2015) and can be

question. It can be intermittent in supply and

converted to oil and gas when they run out

facilities are also not yet fully developed which

(Senior, 2015).

enable a large scale solution for storage when supply outstrips demand. Further to this, it is still

However, the residing problem is that carbon

largely the case that our urban areas remain

dioxide (CO2) is produced through burning

fossil fuel dependent cities that create air

fossil fuels. This is currently accountable for

pollution, discharge sewage and produce

almost “two-thirds of the rise in atmospheric

significant volumes of waste materials (Kim &

levels of carbon dioxide” (Goodall, 2012) in

Rigdon, 1998). We can therefore argue that

turn contributing to global warming and the

to create a truly sustainable approach, it is

change in weather patterns (Senior, 2015).

urgent to design holistic buildings and cities

Therefore, although we will not run out of

that use and store renewable energy to sustain

fossil fuels imminently it is imperative to find

themselves. 33

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 01.3 Why do we need sustainable architecture?





Figure 3: Pie Chart Showing Energy Consumption by Sector


Buildings are the main culprits when it comes

blocks, residential buildings and factories (Kim

to guzzling fossil fuels, according to a study

& Rigdon, 1998). During a buildings lifetime

(Figure 3) done by Architecture 2030 “the

it will have an effect on “local and global

building sector was responsible for nearly

environments via a series of interconnected

half (44.6%) of U.S. CO2 emissions in 2010.

human activities and natural processes” (Kim

By comparison, transportation accounted

& Rigdon, 1998).

for 34.3% of CO2 emissions and industry just 21.1%” (Architecture 2030, 2012). Norman

In the initial phase, site development and

Foster points out in his TED talk My Green

construction manipulate the original land

Agenda for Architecture that if we combine

and environmental characteristics; once the

buildings with their related transport, which

building is erected it will have a long-term

includes the transport of people, then 71%

impact on the local and global environment.

of energy consumption is produced by the

For example, the energy and water used by

relationship between our cities and their

the residents will create CO2 emissions and

infrastructure. Therefore “the problems of


sustainability cannot be separated from the nature of the cities in which the buildings

Architects must recognize that as a city

are apart” (Foster, 2007).

or country’s economic status increases, its demand on resources will as well, for example

Buildings are one of the most obvious

for land, energy and buildings (Kim & Rigdon,

factors of economic activity, as a country’s

1998). This “increases the combined impact of

economic growth will require more office

architecture on the global ecosystem, which 37







Figure 4: Circles of Sustainability


is made up of inorganic elements, living

‘sustainable’. However, the generalisation of

organisms and humans” (Kim & Rigdon,

this term has proved problematic and one of

1998). It is therefore the architect’s obligation

the key problems surrounding ‘sustainability’

to create “solutions that guarantee the

and ‘sustainable design’ (Veeman, 1989).

coexistence of these constituent groups” (Kim & Rigdon, 1998). For this reason it is

Presently ‘sustainable design’ in architecture

essential that architects design solutions

is more ethical than scientific: it is described

to solve the problems our current buildings

on the PNAS (Proceedings of the National

and cities are causing and to also better

Academy of Sciences of the United States of

future designs.

America) website in 2011 as “an emerging field of research.” Although it is a developing

The United Nations World Commission on

field it is urgent to enforce skills, techniques

Environment and Development has defined

and methods of sustainable design into every

sustainability as “meeting the needs of the

architectural project. To achieve sustainability

present without compromising the ability

it is imperative to have coexistence between

of future generations to meet their own

the economy, environment and society.

needs” (UN WCDE, 1987). The premonition

The Brundtland report (UN WCDE, 1987)

for the term ‘sustainability’ exists today as it

describes these three aspects of life (Figure

did in 1987: preserving today’s resources for

4), to be “mutually dependent, interrelated

the generations of tomorrow. This provided

areas of sustainability and a change in any



one will somehow upset the other two.” For

throughout the world to strive to be

example, economic growth uses extreme






Upstream (Flow 1)


Downstream (Flow 2)


Polluted Air


Graywater Sewage


Used Materials

Figure 5: Resource flow in the building ecosystem

Figure 6: Drawing of the linear cycle within a building ecosystem






resources throughout its life, beginning when it

releasing detrimental emissions that affect the

is manufactured and continuing throughout its

environment and social well-being, therefore

lifetime to produce a sustainable environment

“a building must holistically balance and

providing comfort for human activities (Kim

integrate all three principles” (Kim & Rigdon,

& Rigdon, 1998). When observing this flow of


resource it is clear that there are two streams (Kim & Rigdon, 1998) .Flow 1 can be referred to

This raises the question of how this interaction

as ‘upstream’ and includes any resource flow

would work if we were to place the environment

going into the building ecosystem for example

and nature at the heart of sustainability,

energy, water and building materials. Flow 2

potentially through biomimicry. The research

can be referred to as ‘downstream’ consisting

therefore has the opportunity to explore the

of resources flowing out of the building as

environmental aspect of Figure 4; and focus

output, for example pollution, used materials

on finding solutions to the damage buildings

and grey water sewage (Figure 6).

and cities cause to the natural world. “In the long run, any resources entered into When designing a building, sustainability begins

a building ecosystem will eventually come

by economising resources. As Kim & Rigdon

out from it. This is the law of resource flow

note, the architect must “reduce the use of

conservation” (Kim & Rigdon, 1998). However,

non-renewable resources in the construction

the resources that go into a building (flow

and operation of buildings” (Kim & Rigdon,

1) will inevitably be different when they

1998). A building requires a constant flow of

exit. This change from input to output is 41

due to mechanical processes and human

renovation. Residents bring in a small flow of

interference with the resources during their

materials to support human activity. These

time within the building. A drawing by Samuel

materials eventually become output and they

Castano (Figure 7) vividly explains this linear

are either recycled or discarded in a landfill

cycle; it emulates how resources flow into a

(Kim & Rigdon, 1998).

building, are then used and exit as waste that harms the natural world.

Energy waste Once the building is complete, it needs a

“The three strategies for the economy

continuous flow of energy input throughout

of resources principle are energy

its life cycle to heat, cool and light the

conservation, water conservation,

building, this energy cannot be recovered

and material conservation. Each

as it outputs the building as pollution. The

focuses on a particular resource

scale of environmental impact differs in every

necessary for building construction

building due to the level and type of energy

and operation� (Kim & Rigdon, 1998).

consumption. Coal power stations release many harmful gases into the air; nuclear

Material waste

power stations generate radioactive waste,

Vast ranges of building materials are used

which currently has limited management



solutions and hydro power plants need a dam

generate significant waste. Once the building

and reservoir to store large amounts of water.

is completed, a small amount of materials are

This type of construction puts an end to river

required for maintenance, replacement and

ecosystems and creates habitat loss for plants





and animals (Kim & Rigdon, 1998).

Water waste Buildings need vast amounts of water for cleaning, cooking, flushing toilets, irrigating plants, drinking, etc. However this input requires energy due to treatment and delivery and the output of grey water sewage also must be treated (Kim & Rigdon, 1998).

Therefore, finding sustainable solutions to these three sections is absolutely vital, as by developing ecological inputs we will be able to provide inoffensive outputs. We must figure out how to achieve this within a reasonable budget and without harming the environment. Inspiration for this could be found by looking at how nature has developed itself through 3.8 billion years of evolution to conserve water, energy and materials without harming the Earth. Can nature show us how to conserve these properties? 43

BIOMIMICRY 02.1 What is Biomimicry?


Figure 7: The Vitruvian Man; Leonardo Da Vinci believed the symmetry of man compared to the symmetry of the universe

Figure 8: Buckminster Fuller’s iconic Fly’s Eye Dome at America’s Cup

Figure 9: Santiago Calatrava’s art museum in Milwaukee, America. Influenced by biomimetic ideas such as skeletal systems, palm leaves and the human eye


In this chapter the author will review and

creations for decades but are only now starting

critique literature to explain Biomimicry,

to take advantage of their real potential

determine how well it has been used in

(Baumeister et al., 2014).

recent inventions and analyse if nature can inspire ideas to solve architectural

Leonardo Di Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frei

predicaments. To do this the author will

Otto, Buckminster Fuller, Santiago Calatrava

examine plants and animals to discover

and Antonio Gaudi are all examples of

if they can teach us how to conserve


materials, energy and water and ultimately

“unfortunately these were isolated instances

inspire sustainable solutions.

but not the start of a succession” (Baumeister





et al., 2014). Baumeister (2014) explains her is

beliefs that this time will be different, as so many

learning from and then emulating

different types of industries are becoming






involved with ‘biomimetics’ or ‘bio-inspired’



products and designs. Perhaps this has been

sustainable designs” (Baumeister

brought on by changes in climate patterns or it

et al., 2014)

may simply be due to the fact that we have the




technology to make these inventions possible. The




For whatever reason, we are seeing more and

design and the natural world is not a new

more examples of nature inspired creations in

phenomenon; architects and designers

medicine, agriculture, transportation, energy,

have taken inspiration from the earth’s

manufacturing and product design. But can 47

Figure 10: Diagram showing how to apply biomimicry to design at all three levels


we explore biomimicry to its full potential and

another is copying a process, like

apply this thinking to architecture to create

photosynthesis in a leaf, and the third

a type of design which establishes harmony

is mimicking at an ecosystem’s level,

between the environment, buildings and

like building a nature-inspired city�

consumers? The way we design our buildings and cities Janine Benyus is an innovation consultant and

is central to the social, environmental and

a co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute. She

economic factors of sustainability shown in

is known as the originator of the biomimicry

earlier Figure 4. This traditionally determined

movement and educates people around the

if we are designing sustainably or not.

world about nature and its potential (Maglic,


2012). Benyus (2002) describes in her book


Biomimicry: innovation inspired by nature,

needs. However, achieving sustainability has

the depth of Biomimicry and that to fully

become more complex.









understand its potential we must appreciate the variety of design and place each

Sustainability is not just another design criteria;

imitation into one of three categories. Benyus

it must be integrated into all phases of design

(2002) explains the three levels of biomimicry

progression to achieve the greatest benefit

conveyed in Figure 10:

(Verbeek, 2011). Figure 10 explains the 3 levels of biomimicry and how they have integrated

“There are three types of Biomimicry

over 3.8 billion years to create models that

- one is copying form and shape,

form life. 49





Closed Loop flows of resource

Linear flows of resource

Adapt to constant change

Resistant to change

Zero waste


No long term toxins used

Long term toxins frequently used



Use local resources

Use global resources

Densely interconnected


Run on renewable resources

Fossil Fuel Dependant

Figure 11: Comparison of biological systems and human-made systems


“Biomimicry is increasingly becoming part of

What better models could there be?”

the regular lexicon of industrial design and

- (Benyus, 2002)

sustainability” (Verbeek, 2011). Verbeek (2011) explains that biomimicry could become the

Figure 11 demonstrates these comparisons.

link between the strength of the industrial revolution and sustainable design, as it

There are few case studies of biomimicry being

provides a “framework and methodology” for

used successfully in design and engineering

industrial designers to implement sustainable

strategies. However, Verbeek (2011) expresses

solutions. However, biomimicry is collaborative,

that the “numerous environmental challenges

complex, densely interconnected and diverse.

we face are forcing us to move fast” and

Therefore it is difficult for the built environment

biomimicry presents the benefit of “being

to replicate this approach (Verbeek, 2011). To

based on an existing body of time-tested

determine if biomimicry can become this link

solutions.” By mimicking how nature works

it is important to examine how humans and

and collaborating this with current technology

nature treat these inputs to determine the

we could arguably use biomimicry to solve

differences and if there is something we need

problems from a new perspective. This is an

to be taught (Figure 11).

area that nature could potentially inspire, as the 3 levels of biomimicry have integrated for

“In short, living things have done

over 3.8 billion years to create models that

everything we want to do, without

form life. The following section will investigate


examples of biomimicry that have or could





planet, or mortgaging their future.

create sustainable designs. 51

BIOMIMICRY 02.2 Examples of biomimicry


Figure 12: A Humpback whales interesting flippers

Figure 13: Whalecorporation Turbine inspired by these flippers



than designing solutions that, like nature, use

The first level is the shallow level and the

less energy at the start of the process. We

mimicking of natural form (Baumeister et al.,

are currently facing many problems due to

2014); it refers to the imitation of an organism,

climate change and for this reason, as well as

for example its shape.

fossil fuels depleting; energy generation is one of our most important challenges (Pawlyn,






standardization and brute force where used to create an ideology of ‘one size fits all,’

As explained previously, human-made systems

although this brutish approach to design had

have a linear flow of energy, whereas if we

many prosperous outcomes it devastated and

examine the flows of energy in nature we find

disregarded nature and its diversity (Braungart

they have a closed loop system, essentially

& McDonough, 2008).

meaning nothing is wasted. For example biological systems run entirely on renewable

Whereas organisms are extremely diverse,

‘income’ creating no waste output (Pawlyn,


2011). The energy dilemma is a peculiar one.




modification they are constantly improving (Farnsworth, 2013a). This conflict between







man and nature is most obvious when it

received from the sun every year represents

comes to energy (Pawlyn, 2011). Where

approximately 10,000 times as much as we

energy is concerned we have, in general, met

currently use,” we just need to find a better

our requirements by using more energy rather

way of harnessing it. Goodall (2012) supports 55

this argument by stating “our planet is bathed






in enough light and heat every few hours to

(Megaptera novaeangliae) flippers (Figure

provide all the world’s power demand for a

12). They discovered the flippers were not

year” yet industries do not utilize this energy to

completely smooth but had bumps on the

its full potential (Goodall, 2012). As previously

leading edge, which produced the ‘tubercle

explained, half of Scotland’s electricity comes

effect’ (Whalepower Corporation, 2011).

from renewable energies including wind and solar power; they plan to have 100% equivalent

Tubercles are the bumps at the front of a

of their electricity produced by renewable

humpback whale’s fins and they permit this

sources by 2020 (Shankleman, 2014). However,

very large creature to be agile in water. By

Goodall (2012) explains that the two difficult

decreasing drag and increasing lift (Baumeister

challenges of this ambition will be to store

et al., 2014) they allow the animal to manoeuvre

energy when it is not being used, and providing

itself at slow speed (Pawlyn, 2011). Dr Frank E.

energy when there is no resource. Biomimicry

Fish, a marine biologist, discovered this when

in architecture could be a potential solution

examining a structure of a humpback whale.

as energy could be stored within cities and

He then teamed up with Dr. Laurens E. Howle,

could be used when renewable energies are

the leading naval engineer in fluid dynamics

not available.

and two other naval engineers to develop the wind turbine (Chapdelaine, 2011).






influencing the development of a sustainable

Through their exploration of the humpback

technology is a Toronto based corporation,






they 56

discovered how to create a wind turbine,

20 per cent over a year and result in quieter

which will remain working at slow speeds

operation” (Pawlyn, 2011). Their intuitive design



creates a new type of flow management

important as wind turbines have a “minimum

to maximize energy and uses inexpensive

speed of operation, below which they will

materials. This impressive product would not

stop turning and only turn on again once

have been possible without the investigation

the wind speed has picked up enough to

into the humpback whale; it proves that

overcome inertia” (Pawlyn, 2011). Therefore

renewable designs could be improved by the

this new discovery allowed Dr Fish’s turbines

use of biomimicry. It begins to provide answers

(Figure 13) to continue to move when there

to how we could gain energy from a very

is very little wind at a very slow speed, which

small amount of power and designers could

continues to create energy. “Smooth blades

study biological models for inspiration on how

produce a sheet like flow of air, tubercles

to improve sun and tidal power.




force air into accelerated streams between bumps” (Maglic, 2012) causing less turbulence

This directs us to the next section, where the

between blades and increasing efficiency

author will analyse natural processes and

(Chapdelaine, 2011).

discover if we can be inspired to create new building materials.






prominent example of how nature can teach


us how to maximize design to minimize waste.


They claim the blades can “improve output by

level”(Baumeister et al., 2014), it mimics






Figure 14: Diagram of the adaptable pincone

Figure 15: Responsive material inspired by the pinecone

Figure 16: The responsive material could be used to create small shelters and further intelligent cladding systems


how an organism works and then copies its






behaviour, for example how an animal may

2013), such as wooden cladding systems that

change shape to survive. Biomimicry has

respond to the environment by shrinking and

been excellently explored at organism level,

swelling with no human input.

however as the levels of biomimicry become more complex, we are yet to see designs

Pawlyn (2011) makes it clear that this area

mimic the process and ecosystem level to its

potentially expresses the biggest gap between

full potential, although there are promising

engineering and biology, merely because

examples in the early stage of development

buildings are not ‘alive’ in a way that is similar

(Farnsworth, 2013a).

to any life form. However the ability to develop hygromorphic materials and integrate them

Current intelligent building systems generally

into a building would present architects

try to use climate responsive technologies

with the opportunity of passively adjusting

to reduce buildings energy consumption.

their designs to the changing internal and

However, they lack the sophistication and

external environments, addressing a variety of

competence of naturally responsive systems

sustainability challenges (Bridgens & Farmer,

(Bridgens & Farmer, 2013). Natural materials








“moisture induced opening and closing of

Chao Chen, a student from the Royal Collage

the pine cone” (Bridgens & Farmer, 2013). This

of Art, has attempted to do exactly this with his

reactive response can be mimicked to inspire

project ‘Water Reaction’ (Figure 14). This was

“low-tech, low-cost hygromorphic (moisture-

inspired by the pine cones ability to open and 59

close in response to humidity (Goodwin, 2015).

2013). As previously explained, a pinecone

Chen discovered that a pine cone consisted

reacts to humidity levels, staying closed when

of two layers; one is absorbent and the other

it is on the tree and opening once it falls to the

impermeable. When the pine cone becomes

ground and begins to dry out (Pawlyn, 2011).

wet the porous outer layer expands “causing

Schittich (2006) reported that “improving

the scale to bend and close the cone”

the thermal properties of the skin layers and

(Goodwin, 2015). Chen imitated the intricate

their fixation” could reduce buildings energy

“seed-preserving tactic by using fabric, a thin


film and a layer of veneer,” the absorbent veneer fibres swell and envelope the fabric,

The development of their seeds depends on

creating a tile (Figure 15) which curls when dry

the pine cones ability to control its internal

and flattens when wet (Goodwin, 2015).

temperature. If designers can mimic the pine cone’s ability do this we can “reduce 40%

The tiles could be arranged to create an

of heating ventilation and air conditioning

awning for a small-scale project such as a bus


shelter (Figure 16) in which the material would

consumption in a hot climate” (Jaheen &

curl up in the sunlight to allow natural light into

Taleb, 2014). This could be useful to solving

the structure and flatten when wet to provide

energy demands as buildings would firstly

protection from the rain (Goodwin, 2015).

require less energy and secondly if a similar

The pine cones inspiration for responsive

system was designed to react to sunlight, the

materials allows architects to potentially lower

skin could close at night and back insulate the

a buildings energy use (Bridgens & Farmer,

building. This would keep the heat gained that







day within the building to heat the structure at

deepest and requires an understanding of the

night-time. It is possible to develop this idea to

ecosystem that the organism lives in; it explores

create weather responsive cladding systems

how this network thrives and what elements

for buildings that have the potential to control

are needed for it to succeed. Ecosystems

their internal environment (Pawlyn, 2011).

maintain themselves through the ability to

However, there are challenges to integrating

conserve and reuse water, energy and raw

these ideas into a building skin. The design

materials sustainably (Pawlyn, 2011); can they

would have to become stronger to handle

teach us to do the same?

extreme weather conditions, air-tightness and insulation standards which may also prove

“Nature as a mentor. Biomimicry is

difficult to meet (Pawlyn, 2011). Never the less,

a new way of viewing and valuing

it is a very interesting beginning to what could

nature. It introduces an era based

inspire naturally responsive buildings and even

not on what we can extract from the


natural world, but what can we learn from it.� (Benyus, 2002)

This directs us to the next level, where it is possible to analyse natural ecosystems and

Firstly, as Benyus (2002) has described above,

discover if we can apply their efficiency to our

architects could potentially learn from the

man-made communities.

efficiency of ecosystems, how to design buildings and cities that no longer need to


extract from nature. It is at this level that we are

The third and final level of Biomimicry is the

able to examine examples of a closed loop 61

Figure 17: Diagram explaining how an oak tree performs like an ecosystem to conserve material, energy and water


flow of resources and compare them to the

Braungart and McDonough (2008) support

built environments linear flow. Some designers

this argument by saying “that using fire to fight

have already begun to mimic nature and how

‘waste’ is medieval behaviour. It is a type of

it does this. The transformation from a wasteful,

paranoia. The Cradle-to-Cradle approach is

contaminating linear flow of resources to a

to see waste as food, as a nutrient for what’s

closed loop model is vital if we are to achieve

to come.” It is important, in this modern age to

truly sustainable architecture (Pawlyn, 2011).

move away from the ‘Cradle-to-Grave’ linear way of thinking and provide opportunities to

One of nature’s most interesting achievements

conserve our resources, especially now that

is how it respects waste, human-made systems

we understand the destruction that the fossil

see waste as a useless leftover, which exits a

fuel age has caused.

building as pollution, sewage, or is sent to a landfill to be destroyed (Pawlyn, 2011). This is

The goal of Biomimicry is to take inspiration from

the main difference between our linear system

nature and create sustainable and holistic

and nature’s circular one: we do not use the

human-made systems (Drake, 2011). The Oak

end product to create a continuous cycle.

tree is one of nature’s brilliant examples of

However, noteworthy solutions are beginning

sustainable ecosystem design. As a model, it



manages to do everything we as architects

of nature’s use of energy and nutrients, in

want to achieve when it comes to buildings

turn permitting us to obtain better resource

and cities. Reiterating Kim & Rigdon’s (1998)


point that “in a long run, any resources entered





industries (Pauli, 2010).




into a building ecosystem will eventually come 63

Figure 18: A conceptual image of the Mobius Project by Exploration Architecture


out from it. This is the law of resource flow

forest floor slowing down evaporation, giving

conservation.” The Oak tree reuses the output

the roots time to absorb water. This water is then

resources as input materials creating a closed

transported up through the tree to the leaves

loop ecosystem that conserves materials,

through the water column where it will be

energy and water (Figure 17).

released through the stomata and evaporate into the air. If any part of one cycle fails the

The material, energy and water cycles of the

closed-loop opens and the system becomes

oak tree are separate closed loop systems.

inefficient, as “these cycles thrive on each

However, there are many synergies that coexist

other, and the oak tree is healthiest when they

between them that collaborate together.

are all functioning together” (Drake, 2011).

Maximizing these synergies permits the oak tree to grow and sustain itself (Drake, 2011).

This type of ecosystem thinking has inspired

Figure 17 outlines these three closed-loop

Exploration Architecture to design a biomimetic

cycles and the synergies that connect them.

building that mimics the oak tree’s ability to

For example, carbon dioxide enters the leaves

conserve materials, energy and water in a

through the stomata in the energy cycle then

closed loop system that supports itself.

sunlight causes a chemical reaction that will turn carbon dioxide and water into oxygen

The Mobius Project (Figure 18) is a scheme

and glucose, allowing the tree to grow. Raw

inspired by ecosystems that has a variety of

materials such as leaves, twigs and acorns will

innovative processes, which “allow inputs

fall to the ground and need water and oxygen

and outputs to be connected up to form a

to decompose. This waste material covers the

closed loop model” (Pawlyn, 2011). There 65

Figure 19: Diagram showing how the Mobius Project performs like an ecosystem


are three focal sequences: water treatment,

mimicking biological models at the ecosystem

food production and energy generation

level. That said, if the building had alternative

(Pawlyn, 2011). There are many examples of

methods to access elements of its material,

these components individually, which have

energy and water cycle, then the Mobius

been previously explored in the dissertation,

project could potentially inspire self-sufficient

however like the oak tree, the Mobius Project

environmentally sustainable schemes.

innovatively integrates these processes into a harmonious cycle (Thomson, 2012). The scheme assimilates elements shown in Figure 19.

Innovative schemes like the Mobius Project have the potential to transform buildings and cities from problematic linear systems into closed loop models that address the challenges we face with material, energy and water conservation (Thomson, 2012). However, like the oak tree, the Mobius project has separate closed loop systems that are connected by synergies and if an element fails the system will not function. As explained previously, this is a designer’s biggest challenge when 67

BIOMIMICRY 02.3 Limitations of biomimetic architecture


“Ecosystems are networks of interrelations

the ecosystem remains stable. However if

between organisms and their environment in a

the amount of prey or predators alters then

defined space” (Schulze, 2005). Therefore, the

this affects the entire food chain and could

organisms within this ecosystem are entirely

potentially endanger the whole ecosystem

reliant on the processes of other organisms


within the same bio-network (Buraczynski,

developed itself over 3.8 billion years through

2013). An example of this is the basic carbon

cruel and calculated selection. This would

dioxide-oxygen cycle: plants take in carbon

not be possible in the built environment, as a

dioxide and change it into oxygen, animals

biomimetic city would have to be designed

then breathe in the oxygen and exchange

and constructed before we were to know if its

it back to carbon dioxide. The cycle will

ecosystem would thrive or not.





continue to create this balance of gases as long as both organisms exist within that given

Buraczynski (2013) argues that examples

area (Buraczynski, 2013).

such as these are not thoroughly considered by architects and designers who believe

A possible architectural comparison would be

biomimetic architecture is the answer to

zero-energy buildings, which strive to produce

sustainability problems. She expresses concern

as much energy as they use (Verbeek, 2011).

about biomimetic designs performing as

The food chain is an example of how each

ecosystems and explains that although they

organism is affected by the process of other

inspire “safe and functional building solutions on

organisms as they feed on one another. As

an individual scale, the ways in which designs

long as these numbers do not fluctuate then

function cohesively is often neglected.” This 70

does not mean that individual biomimetic

the world sees what nature is capable of, it may

systems should not be applied to buildings

be used to create designs that “campaign

but rather combining systems without proper

against life” rather than provide for it. She

investigation could be detrimental to the users.

uses the Wright Brothers aeroplane as a prime

This shift in the design approach could cause

example, the brothers studied birds, (vultures

human error. This must be considered when

specifically), “to learn the nuances of drag

investigating the limitations of biomimetic

and lift.” In 1903 the bird taught humans how

architecture, especially when creating a

to fly for the first time (Figure 20) and in 1914

building like an ecosystem. If an error were

we were using this technology as a weapon

to occur in one area then the entire system

of war to drop bombs from the sky (Figure 21).

could become unbalanced and potentially fail. There is also the possibility that the

Benyus (2002) explains that if we are to “fit

biological model could be falsely mimicked,

in on Earth” then our basic understanding

or become unbalanced somewhere down

of nature has to change. Firstly it will begin

the line causing the biomimetic architecture

by squandering the philosophy that we are

to malfunction.

the ultimate species and “the world was put here exclusively for our use.” Twain (1962)

Benyus (2002) makes an intriguing case in

supports this argument and writes in his book

her book Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by

Letters From the Earth of the “damned human

nature, in which she asks: “what will make the

race” that believe they are at the top of

Biomimicry revolution any different from the

this hierarchical pyramid and will eventually

Industrial Revolution?” She argues that once

exterminate themselves: 71

Figure 20: Wright Brothers with their aeroplane that was inspired by birds in 1904

Figure 21: A series of bombs that were dropped by German Gotha aeroplanes in World War One (1914-1918)


“Man is the only animal that deals in

level there are also many limitations. To

that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is

discover if this level is too complex for current

the only one that gathers his brethren

architectural design, the author will investigate

about him and goes forth in cold

a case study of Kalundborg Eco-Industrial

blood and calm pulse to exterminate

Park in the subsequent chapter. This example

his kind� (Twain, 1962)

uses ecosystem thinking at building scale and could potentially inspire how architects design

This is perhaps not so much a limitation but

future cities.

a pessimistic view of what biomimicry could influence though it could arguably limit designer’s enthusiasm to create biomimetic projects.

As outlined above, it is clear from examples such as the Humpback whale that biomimicry can be applied to architecture at organism level. Furthermore there is undeniably the opportunity to advance biomimicked designs at process level and use them to create sustainable architecture. However, although there are some great conceptual ideas that could be applied to architecture at ecosystem 73

CASE STUDY 03.1 Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park


Figure 22: Nine core elements of Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park

Figure 23: Aerial view of Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park in Denmark


Kalundborg Symbiosis is an industrial park within

other organisms. Similarly, like an ecosystem, it

the city of Kalundborg, “the municipality is the

has slowly evolved from a small collaboration

largest area in the Zealand region” and has

of a few companies to a complex system

a range of innovative clean tech systems that


work like an ecosystem (Kalundborg Symbiosis,

Symbiosis, 2016).




2016). The combined elements within the industrial park are innovatively designed by

Nine core systems construct the Kalundborg

using nature as a mentor (Suarez, 2012).

Eco-Industrial Park (Figure 23); collectively these systems convert waste products into

The industrial ecosystem creates a network

useful resources and aim to create “greater

of valuable relationships, where the waste

efficiencies in the use and reuse of energy,

product of one company becomes a useful

water and materials” (Suarez, 2012). When


these companies work in isolation they





2012). The Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park was





established in 1961 (Kalundborg Symbiosis,

products and material efficiency” (Suarez,

2016) and has developed over three decades

2012). Conventionally companies would use

to become a “complex network of companies”

a considerable amount of time, money and

(Figure 22) constructed from the bottom

energy to collect materials and water and

up (Suarez, 2012). This example of industrial

then dispose of the waste product (Suarez,

symbiosis mimics nature in the sense that

2012). Therefore the relationships within this

companies rely on other companies within the

industrial ecosystem depend on the core

system in the same way that organisms rely on

elements: material, energy and water. 77

Figure 24: View from around the AsnĂŚs power station


Material conservation Materials



saving the companies money and creating throughout


environmentally sustainable solutions.

ecosystem, for example; DONG Energy’s Asnæs

power plant (Figure 24)


Energy conservation

over 98% of sulfur within its flue gas through a

Energy is conserved throughout this ecosystem.

desulphurization process” (Suarez, 2012). This

DONG Energy’s coal fired power station

captured sulfur is then mixed with calcium

“produces 10% of the electricity consumed



in Denmark and operates at about 40%

industrial gypsum, which replaces imported

thermal efficiency” (Suarez, 2012). Surplus

natural gypsum. This industrial gypsum is

heat from the factory’s electricity production

used by Gyproc to make plasterboard; used

is used to generate steam, which is used by

plasterboard is then collected by Kara/

Novozymes, Novo Nordisk and Statoil. Excess

Noveren and delivered back to Gyproc for

heat also provides central heating, which

reuse. “This closed cycle replaces tons of

is used to heat homes within the city of

natural gypsum that would otherwise have

Kalundborg (Kalundborg Symbiosis, 2016). The

been imported” (Suarez, 2012).

Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park uses surplus




energy throughout the ecosystem to power The Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park has created

other components. However the coal fired

a closed loop solution to this linear problem

power plant still produces the waste output

by reusing materials that would usually end

of pollution and although it is much less than

up in a landfill within the ecosystem. This

an average power station, there is still waste

eliminates the need to import natural gypsum,

material that is not being fully harnessed. 79

Water conservation

Industrial Park as a successful representation

Water is conserved throughout the system. For

of a biological model that “delivers both

example, excess heat from the power plant

environmental and economical benefits.” He

is also used to sterilize wastewater. This water

expresses that the general concept of the park

is then recycled throughout the industrial

is straightforward; one corporation’s waste

ecosystem to minimize the amount of water

becomes another’s valuable resource and the

being used from nearby Lake Tisso. For instance,

result is “reduced consumption of resources

the water required to cool the power plant

and a significant reduction in environmental

(Suarez, 2012). The Kalundborg Eco-Industrial

strain.” This therefore gives each component

Park has solved this linear problem, by using

the opportunity to manufacture products

excess energy within the industrial ecosystem

more efficiently without “increasing the use

to treat the grey water and recycle it.

of energy, water and raw materials” (Suarez, 2012). The Industrial Symbiosis at Kalundborg

The ability to reuse and recycle these three

offers the ability to study biomimicry at

elements has reduced pollution, sewage and

an appropriate scale for application to

waste material whilst also generating income


for the companies within the system. This bionetwork mimics a natural ecosystem where

Suarez (2012) states that the overall complex

organisms reuse one another’s waste to their

seems to be a perfect blueprint of how

own advantage (Suarez, 2012).

to design a collection of buildings that synchronize

Suarez (2012) describes the Kalundborg Eco-





looking at the industrial park in more detail, 80

it becomes apparent that the individual

components to create a more sustainable

components could be more sustainable.


For example recycling one another’s waste

products are, the more sustainable the

should not give these companies the right to

corporations are and ultimately the more

guiltlessly deplete natural resources. Similarly

sustainable the overall development will be

the products, packaging, systems and services

(Benyus, 2002).





that the companies provide have the potential to be more sustainable. This is highlighted by

Biomimicry has the potential to provide

Braungart & McDonough (2008):

answers to architectural problems. However, it is how well we dissect nature, and apply the

“To eliminate the concept of waste

subsequent solutions to the built environment,

means to design things--products,

that will judge if we can create truly biomimetic

packaging, and systems--from the

architecture. “As of now it appears that its

very beginning on the understanding

application to architecture is still premature”

that waste does not exist”

(Buraczynski, 2013).

The industrial park does recycle most of its

We could begin to develop a sustainable

waste effectively, however until the individual

model by applying isolated design elements

systems become more efficient, the complex

to buildings, or designing at a smaller scale,

offers a reasonable, thought short term, answer

for example the Mobius Project. Further to

to urban design (Suarez, 2012). It is necessary

this the Kalundborg Industrial Park is a useful

to evaluate the efficiency of individual

example of how biomimicry could inspire a 81

Figure 25: Diagram of how the Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park uses ecosystem thinking


city. However to design an accurate and

sustainable and ultimately the cities they

practical biomimetic model for a city means it

belong to more sustainable. Baumeister et al

would have to mimic nature at the organism,

(2014) support this idea and argue:

process and ecosystem level, therefore an overall system and minor systems that work

“If we can biomimic at all three

holistically within it (Benyus, 2002). For cities

levels—natural form, natural process,

to perform like ecosystems, they must mimic

and natural system—we’ll begin to

every detail of it, where buildings, transport,

do what all well-adapted organisms

services etc imitate organisms and belong to

have learned to do, which is to

a superior system. Every design must rely on

create conditions conducive to life.”

the other to create an overall balance in the city.

Although cities could eventually perform like ecosystems, we firstly need to develop the

Biomimicry presents enticing options for the

individual design components that make

future of architecture. However we first have

up a building and discover how these could

to study how each individual system could be


applied at a larger scale and then how they

chapter will discuss the author’s findings and

interconnect to make a building and more

discuss potential future research.




intricately to form a city. Initially, biomimicry can help us discover how to design systems that conserve water, energy and materials to make buildings more environmentally 83

DISCUSSION 04.1 Analysis and potential future research





Whale Fin

Energy Efficiency: Whales have lumps (tubercles) on the front of their flippers which improve hydrodynamic performance at slow speed

Amazon Water Lily

Material Efficieny: The water lily uses mimimal materials to create robust structures, its has a network of ribs that stiffen the large area without adding excessive thickness

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Insulation: The communal nests of the eastern tent caterpillar are an

Buttress Roots

Foundations: Trees growing in the shallow soil of the rainforest have evolved buttress roots that resist overturning

Branching Vessels

Service systems: The diameter of branching vessels in animals and

example of insulation and solar orientation that produce temperatures inside the nest 4 °C above ambient

plants and the angles formed by their junctions follow a formula that uses minimal energy. This could be applied to duct and pipework



Solar Shading: Cacti use a lifeless material to protect them from the

Bird Skull

Lightweight Structures: The effective thickness of the skull is increased by creating multiple surfaces connected by a matric of ties and struts

Eucalyptus Tree

Fire Resistant Materials: The eucalyptus tree can survive forest fires


Responsive Materials: Pinecones open because the stems of each scale are made from two materials which shrink at different rates when they dry out causing them to bend

Human Lungs

Sequester Carbon: Alveoli in the human lungs create an effective

The Stone Plant

Temperature Control: The stone plant has adapted to survive the

Elephant Foot Plant

Water Storage: When there is heavy rainfall these plants retain large volumes of water underground in their root structure, which expands and contracts depending on the amount


Waste Management: When a tree falls, a community of organisms breaks down the tree's chemical compounds into other compounds and individual molecules, which are then used in other organisms.


Diversity: More diverse communities have been shown to have higher

sun, which also traps air allowing them to cool themselves

and could potentially inspire new fire resistant materials for buildings

total surface area roughly equal to that of a tennis court

extreme diurnal swings in temperature by exploiting the stable temperature of the ground

and more temporally stable ecosystem functioning than less diverse ones, suggesting they should also have a consistently higher level of functioning over time.

Figure 26: Table showing how biomimicry could solve architectural challenges at all three levels


This chapter will consider the many influences

form, it has been widely explored as a design

biomimicry has had on design and explore

method and is arguably the most successful

possible future outcomes of biomimicry at

out of the three levels of application. It could

each level.

prove useful in architecture, for example due to extreme pressure on weight reduction birds

“When you’re looking at biological

have evolved lightweight skeletons (Figure


27), the structure of a birds skull is essentially an





problems in very different ways from

“engineering miracle” (Pawlyn, 2011)

engineering systems, which is why the area is so interesting. But that means

“‘Lightweight’ can be defined by the ratio of

that if you’re looking for an answer,

the active or life load is carried over its dead

you shouldn’t look for it in the most

load, being the longer the better” (Harris,

obvious place.” Julian F V Vincent

2010). Correspondingly, the largest structural


load carried by the lowest structural weight, the better (Harris, 2010). Architect Andres


Harris (2010) explains “skulls in general are

As shown in the modified table (Figure

extraordinary impact-resistant structures and

26) adapted from ideas of Pawlyn (2011)

extremely light at the same time.” Skulls are

in Biomimicry in Architecture, this level of

designed to be robust as they protect vital

biomimicry as a model has been extensively

organs whilst being extremely light to allow the

researched and applied to areas of design.

birds to fly. With consideration of the related

Although these projects will only mimic natural

literature and materials used for this study it is 87

Figure 27: X-ray of bird skulls showing structural make up

Figure 28: Zoomed x-ray of bird skull showing more detail


my belief that this is relevant to architecture

architectural ideas are beginning to be

and this property can be applied to a buildings

applied. This level mimics natural process


and has the potential to create some cutting edge designs. As previously outlined in this

Large songbird skulls are made from “non-

dissertation, the sustainable management



of water is increasingly becoming another

constructed of “pneumatized cells,” which

environmental challenge (Pawlyn, 2011). The

create air gaps between the dense materials.

belief amongst climate scientists is that most

This decreases the structures weight, as less

tropical countries in the developing world will

material is used, without disturbing its strength.

face huge destruction of their agricultural

Buildings could follow this principle and have

industries due to temperature increases and

the potential to be built similarly to nature by

rainfall reduction (Pawlyn, 2011).




using concrete, which surrounds “a web of inflated void formers” (Pawlyn, 2011). Further

It is of my opinion that future research

research could expand Andres Harris’s work

could look to organisms that thrive in desert



conditions, as many plants and animals in

as these that could be used as a form of

these barren surroundings have the ability to

temporary housing or emergency shelters.

store water. One of the best examples of this




would be the Elephant Foot Plant (Discorea NATURE AS A MEASURE (PROCESS LEVEL)

Elephantipes) (Farnsworth, 2013a). When there

This level of biomimicry as a mentor has been

is heavy rainfall these plants (Figure 29) retain


large volumes of water underground in their






Figure 29: Elephant Foot Plant (Discorea Elephantipes)


root structure, which expands and contracts

is the most underdeveloped of biomimetic



application, this is due to it being the most

2013b). These swollen bases can store water

complex (Baumeister et al., 2014). Examples

for six months to a year as the plant has a

such as the Mobius Project and Kalundborg

“water capacity of 97% in its fibrous tubers”

Eco-Industrial Park were shown previously in

(Farnsworth, 2013a).

the dissertation as studies of architectural




ecosystem thinking. Although they begin to Buildings commonly store our water in rigid tanks

create a bio-network by using waste to create

below ground, which will only hold so much,

resources, the buildings themselves are not

this plant could inspire expandable water

made from biomimetic materials. Pawlyn

tanks that could be made of a “lightweight

(2011) supports this argument in his book

membrane, which could be incorporated

Biomimicry in Architecture:

into walls or landscape features” (Pawlyn, 2011). This would allow structures to conserve

“Generally we manufacture materials

maximum rainfall and reuse it throughout

with high energy bonds, which makes

drier parts of the year. In wetter climates, for

them difficult to integrate into systems

example Britain, the tank could store water

modelled on biology”

during floods, which would minimize disaster and again could be used later in the year.

If we could design and construct materials, buildings and cities with “natural polymers”



As can be seen in Figure 26, the ecosystem level


“low energy bonds”, then structures embed



these 91

Figure 30: Aerial view of the Everglades in Florida, America

Figure 31: Aerial view of London, England


cycles. As previously explored, ecosystem

designing a sustainable city does not only

inspired models “involve complex interactions

depend on the buildings within it, considered

between different processes that require

planning “that embraces food, transport and

design input if they are to be optimized.” Due

energy as well as health and well being” is

to analysis of related literature and academic

required (Pawlyn, 2011).

material it is my belief that there is the opportunity for buildings to achieve this and

A sustainable world already exists (Figure 30)

become innovative examples of architecture.

where organisms work together to create

In general the built environment has exploited

a harmonious ecosystem. This is because

natural capital, “whereas ecosystem thinking

organisms cannot take care of their offspring

is an opportunity to do the opposite.” For this

10,000 years from now so they take care of the

reason resource savvy self-sufficient design

place that can (Benyus, 2014). This poses the

such as the Mobius Project is influential to

question: can we design our cities (Figure 31)


to function in the same way?

Future research could challenge current cities

Benyus (2014) explains that we are not going

and determine if they could become more

undertake this challenge until we have ‘metrics’

sustainable by applying biomimicry to building

that she describes as ecological performance

components. The elements would collaborate

standards. For example if a forest gathers x

to potentially create a bio-network within the

amount of water or sequesters x amount of

building; these buildings could work together to

carbon a year then a city should be able to do

create an ecosystem within the city. However,

the same, the very fact that these wild lands 93

TABLE OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES 1. Moderate weather extremes and their impacts 2. Purify the air and water 3. Pollinate crops and natural vegetation 4. Generate and preserve soils and renew their fertility 5. Cycle and move nutrients 6. Detoxify and decompose waste 7. Maintain biodiversity 8. Mitigate droughts and floods 9. Disperse Seeds 10. Protect people from the suns harmful ultraviolet rays 11. Protect stream and river channels and coastal shores from erosion 12. Control pest numbers 13. Contribute to climate stability 14. Regulate disease and carrying of pathogens

Figure 32: Table of ecosystem services a city should aim to use as ‘metrics’


can do this proves it is not impossible. If we are

be used by the city (Benyus, 2014). Ideas such

to design cities that abide by these ecosystem

as these build upon Kalundborg Eco-Industrial

services (Figure 32), we cannot simply just plant

Parks ecosystem thinking; similarly they take

plants to do the work for them; they must work

waste and turn it into resource, however they

like organisms within an ecosystem. Moreover,

would do this through the building skin without

every city will have a different brief and to

the use of factories.

meet the needs of every individual design we could look at the organisms that survive within

Although the purpose of this study was to look

similar environments. By studying the deep

at how biomimicry could create sustainable

patterns of plants, animals, fungi, insects etc

architecture through energy, material and

there is arguably the potential to come up


with design principles for the entire project.

shows that there are biomimetic solutions to




many architectural challenges. As previously For example, in a cloudy city like Bogotรก the

stated, designs at organism level have used

buildings could mimic the fog basking beetle;

biomimicry exceptionally. While there are still

they could be wrapped in a skin that captures

many architectural challenges to overcome

fog and turns it into water, which is then


recycled throughout the city (Benyus, 2014).

process and ecosystem levels, there are

Buildings within a polluted city such as China

arguably benefits from at least encouraging

could be made from Calera concrete, which

biomimetic thinking.





mimics how coral reefs sequester carbon; this is then turned into building resources that could 95



The aim of the dissertation was to determine

produced by burning them, it is imperative

the extent to which biomimicry could influence

for architects to find alternative sustainable

environmentally sustainable design in the

solutions for both existing buildings and

built environment. Through the application

future designs.

of inductive research, the study involved

• The primary requirement for architectural

the review and analysis of related literature





and academic materials in order to fulfill the

within a building ecosystem; the three

identified research objectives.

main sections are material, energy and water conservation.

Objective 1 - Identify problems created by the Industrial Revolution to our planet and why this

Objective 2 – Research the effectiveness

has generated the importance of sustainable

biomimicry has had on evolving technologies

architectural design.

and architectural functions.

Key Findings derived from researching this

Key Findings derived from researching this



• Although the Industrial Revolution was a

• Human-made systems are simple, wasteful,

phenomenal time for design, it depleted

mono-cultural and fossil fuel dependant

a vast amount of the world’s natural

compared to biological systems, which







• Due to the immense use of fossil fuels

entirely on renewable energy. Architects

within cities and the amount of CO2 waste

and designers can learn a lot from these 98

biological models. However, there are

Objective 3 – Analyse if biomimicry can inspire

few studies of biomimicry being used

architecture to work harmoniously with the

successfully in design and engineering

environment through analysis of a practical



• There are three levels of biomimicry; it is currently being used well at the first level

Key Findings derived from researching this

- organism level. However, there is the


potential for development at both process

• The Eco-Industrial Park uses ecosystem

and ecosystem level. The problems mainly

thinking to effectively convert waste into

stem from the fact that a building is not

valuable resources; material, energy and

alive and therefore it is difficult to design it

water are all conserved in this project.

to respond and adapt.

• However the project only mimics a natural

• Combining systems to create a building

ecosystem by reusing waste as a resource,

inspired by ecosystem thinking could

it is still powered by fossil fuels and therefore

prove too complex at this current period


of architectural design, however designing


and applying responsive materials to a






• For cities to perform like ecosystems;

building could make it more sustainable






as it would be self reliant and could adapt

there systems should mimic the processes

to change; for example cladding systems

these organisms use to survive. This case

could close at night autonomously to form

study supports the theory that creating

back insulated shutters.

architecture that mimics an ecosystem is 99

too advanced. However we could begin

could also inspire integrated systems that

to develop isolated design elements that

store water and sequester carbon.

could be applied to a building to make it

• Ecosystem level is the most underdeveloped

more sustainable and therefore the city it

of the three and is where future research

belongs to more sustainable.

could be applied, however it still has inspirational qualities and could be used

Objective 4 – Identify the future improvements

to create innovative systems that manage

biomimicry can make to architectural design.

waste and make cities more diverse rather

Key Findings derived from researching this

than mono cultural schemes.

objective: As detailed above, this dissertation identified • As previously stated biomimicry has been

three main issues within architectural design:

extensively researched and applied to

material, energy and water conservation.

areas of design at organism level. It could

Through biomimetic innovations in technology

also be widely applied to architecture

and design, architects have begun to find

to provide better solutions for: insulation;

solutions to some of the problems associated

foundations; lightweight structures; fire

with these issues. The research considered the

resistant materials and services etc.

application of biomimicry at three key levels:

• Biomimicry is beginning to develop at the

organism, process and ecosystem. From this, It

process level and could be applied to

became clear from the findings that biomimicry

architecture in terms of inspiring weather

is extremely useful within architecture at

or daylight responsive cladding systems. It

organism level. Therefore, in relation to the 100

evidence presented, it is possible to conclude

exists, emphasized by the table of ecosystem

that there is a place for biomimicry within

service (Figure 32) that could be but are not

architectural design. However, the study also

yet mimicked by the built environment.

found significant challenges at the process and ecosystem levels of biomimicry that would

This dissertation specifically focused on key

require to be overcome before the practical

case studies examining material, energy and

benefits of biomimicry could be realized.

water conservation, as it is arguable that conserving these three resources will create a

Potential areas for future research

truly sustainable design approach. However

The limited scope of this research did not allow

through research the author has discovered

for a full appreciation of the breadth of topics

that there are many areas of design that can

that biomimicry could inspire. Therefore, any

be improved through the use of biomimicry.

further research should firstly give consideration

Due to limited scope if this dissertation, it

to the biomimicry taxonomy created by

was not practical to cover everything that

Baumeister et al (2014; 113).

biomimicry could inspire, but what Is certainly apparent, is the ability of biomimicry to inspire

To progress discursive insight into the field

and potentially begin to address the key

of biomimicry, future studies may also wish

challenges that face architects in the pursuit

to conduct research based around the

of a truly sustainable built environment.

issues raised the application of this process in architecture at the ecosystem level. It is evident from this study that a significant gap 101

BIBLIOGRAPHY References Architecture 2030. (2012) “Why The Building Sector? | Architecture 2030”. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2nd February 2016] Baumeister, D., Benyus, J. M., Dwyer, J. and Tocke, R. (2014) “Biomimicry Resource Handbook” Missoula, Montana: Biomimicry 3.8, Print.

Behe, G. (2015) “Voices From The Carpathia.” Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press, Print. Benyus, J. M. (2002) “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” New York: Perennial, Print. Benyus, J. M. (2014) “Cities that Function Like Forests.” [online video]

Available at: [Accessed: 26 February 2016] Berlin, J. (2010) “The Big Idea: Biomimetic Architecture (Gaudí’s Masterpiece.)” Article from National Geographic Magazine Available at: [Accessed 22nd December 2015] Braungart, M. and McDonough W. (2008) “Cradle to Cradle.” London: Jonathan Cape. Print. Bridgens, B. and Farmer, G. (2013) “Hygromorphic Materials For Sustainable Responsive Architecture.” [online] Available at: [Accessed 14th January 2016] Bryman, A, and Bell, E. (2003) “Business Research Methods.” Oxford: Oxford University Press. Print. Buraczynski, K. (2013) “The Limitations of Biomimetic Architecture.” P5 [online] Available at: [Accessed 10th February 2016] Chapdelaine, M. (2011) “WhalePower Bumps into Engineering Innovation” Opportunity Green [online] Available at: [Accessed 27th December 2015]


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Jaheen, N. and Taleb, H. (2014) “Pinecone From Nature To Construction: Inspired Design Strategies For A Sustainable Roof.” [online] Available at: [Accessed 15th February 2016] Kalundborg Symbiosis. (2016) “Kalundborg Symbiosis”. [online]

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Kitchen, P. and Tate, N. (2000) “Conducting Research in Human Geography: Theory, Methodology and Practice.” England: Pearson Education Limited. Print. Kim, J. J. and Rigdon B. (1998) “Sustainable Architecture Model: Introduction To Sustainable Design” Michigan: National Pollution Prevention Center for Higher Education: 9-22 Print. Landow, G. (2012) “The Industrial Revolution: A Timeline” [online] Available at: [Accessed 23rd December 2015] Maglic, M. (2012) “Biomimicry: Using Nature As A Model For Design”. Masters Dissertation. University of Massachusetts [online] Available at: [Accessed 30th December 2015] Pauli, G. (2010) “The Blue Economy | Paradigm Publications.” [online] Available at: [Accessed 7th February 2016] Pawlyn, M. (2011) “Biomimicry In Architecture.” [London, UK]: Riba Publishing. Print. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) “Sustainability Science: The Emerging Research Program.” 100.14: 80598061. Available at: [Accessed 6th February 2016]


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Armstrong, R. (2009) “Architecture that Repairs Itself?” [online video] Available at: [Accessed 4th January 2016]

Attenborough, D. (2015) “Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough” Episode 1 [online video] Available at: [Accessed 1st January 2016]

Biomimicry 3.8. (2013) “The 3D Printing Revolution Explained In 20 Minutes” [online] Available at:

[Accessed 2nd January 2016] Blackburn, A. (2015) “How will global warming affect polar bears?” [online] Available at:

[Accessed 5th January 2016] Bond, E., Gingerich, S., Archer-Antonsen, O., Purcell, L. and Macklem, E. (2003) “Innovations of the Industrial Revolution.” [online] Available at: [Accessed 20th December 2015]

Crouse, M. (2015) “3D Printing Revenue Growing In Space Defense Sector.” SmarTech Publishing. [online] Available at:

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[Accessed 20th December 2015]


Golenda, G. (2015) “Architecture Inspired By Nature: Biomimicry From Art Nouveau To Neo-Futurism” Architizer. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25th January 2016] Harrigan, S. (2011) “Relics to Reefs.” National Geographic. [online]

Available at: [Accessed 4th January 2016]

Krugerpark. (2015) “Umbrella Thorn | Acacia Tortilis | Southern Africa...” [online] Available at: [Accessed 29th December 2015]

Lott-Lavigna, R. (2015) “Watch This Giant 3D Printer Build A House” WIRED Magazine [online] Available at: [Accessed 2nd January 2016]

Meinhold, B. (2009) “Qatar Sprouts A Towering Cactus Skyscraper” [online] Available at: [Accessed 25th January 2016]

Metzger, J. and Rader Olsson, A. (2013) “Sustainable Stockholm.” Print. Morse, E. (2016) “Non-Renewable Energy” National Geographic Education [online] Available at: [Accessed 23rd December 2015]

Tibert, G. (2002) “Deployable Tensegrity Structures For Space Applications.” Stockholm: Tekniska högsk., Print. Willmott, D. (2015) “A Shocking Solution To Save Coral Reefs.” The Huffington Post. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3rd January 2016]


“The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation� - Albert Einstein

Dissertation: Is biomimicry the answer to environmentally sustainable architecture?  
Dissertation: Is biomimicry the answer to environmentally sustainable architecture?