BIOMIMESIS & SUSTAINABILITY Biomimicry is not analogous with sustainability. There are differing levels of emulation, and much like “sustainable” design, and many Design Looking to Biology methdologies, biomimetic design is not neccessarily self-sustaining, green, or zero carbon. So why do we need Biomimicry when we have these other “green” practices? The last few decades have seen a resurgence of environmental consciousness. As Jonathon Porrit articulates in Biomimicry In Architecture; “Happily, we do at last seem to be waking up after these dismal decades of life-destroying arrogance. Illusions of the ‘limitlessness’ of the planet are evaporating as the ineluctable physical reality of scarcity impacts on more and more aspects of our economy. People no longer dismiss out of hand concerns about ‘peak oil’ or about diminishing supplies of critical raw materials.” (2011 p.iv) Since the late 1980’s sustainable approaches to design and manufacture have been developed by encouraging an efficient use of resources and energy, and by reducing waste or developing techniques for recycling. (McDonough, Braungart 2009) William McDonough and Michael Braungart state that “(the sustainable) approach has its own vocabulary, with which most of us are familiar: reduce, avoid, minimize, sustain, limit, halt. The agenda of such practices is in the words of McDonaugh is to be “less bad”. (2009 p. 45) To reduce the negative human impact on the natural environment, rather than eradicate such an impact or even to have a positive, regenerative impact. Such mitigative measures are half measures. Reduction is the central concept
of eco-efficiency. Reduction may reduce costs and make people less fearful for the future, and allow industries to shift responsibility, reduction does not halt depletion and destruction - it simply slows it. Allowing the impact to take place over a longer period of time. Current studies show that over time, even minute amounts of dangerous emissions have disastrous effects on biological systems. “Plainly put, eco-effieciency only works to make the old destructive system a bit less so.” (McDonough and Braungart 2009 pp.53-55) In the 1990’s the editorial staff of a publication of the National Academy Sciences, proclaimed that Sustainability had “no useful meaning.”(J.G. Frazier, 1997 p. 190) There is an abundance of terminology whose meaning has been lost in modern rhetoric and marketing and commercial jargon; green environmentally friendly, eco-friendly and so forth. These words have become dangerously ambiguous and indeterminate. Often exploited and for proliferation and economic gain. Sustainable and green design (once rid of the marketing jargon and connotations) do denote meaning inclusive of conservation, endurance and robustness. As design practices they consider the ethics of carbon production and have integrated a number of initiatives to mitigate this; sourcing materials locally, renewableenergy use or production, with their aim of reduction. However as McDonough stated, reduction is merely temporary avoidance, and delaying the problem. Even “green’ design at its most basic level (colour) merely implies the use of planting in design, (Wines 2000 p.8) an aesthetic to soften the built environment, which sadly is sometimes of little
use to the environment, and in certain cases, where large amounts of irrigation are needed, often to its detriment. However, there are a number of design disicplines that do effectively reduce environmental impact and improve efficiency of energy usage; eco-design, bioclimatic design, climate sensitive design, low-energy design etc., (Gamage 2012) “Green” or “sustainable” constructed landscapes generally are a product of performance-driven agendas of environmental policies (like BREEAM) and qualify by reaching benchmarks and rating systems. These constructions functioning solely as an amalgamation of eco technologies such as photovoltaic panels or locally sourced materials. (Yeang 2006, p. 23) usually are aimed at saving clients money whislt reducing carbon and raising a profile of a commercial organisation. Most sustainable and green designs lack inherent integration or sythesis with their surrounding environments and ecosystems. These are a number of limitations and issues that biomimicry addresses - when applied at the level of an eco-system. Eco-mimesis is a type of Biomimesis that focuses on understanding the relationship between the built environment and nature. It applies principles found in these natural systems that generate life, provide habitable conditions, and sit comfortably in their surroundings. The mimicking of ecosystems is an integral part of biomimicry as described by Benyus (1997) and Vincent (2007). ‘Ecomimicry’ was coined to describe the mimicking of ecosystems in design.
Biomimetic Design for Landscape Architecture