Biomimicry: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Design

It’s alive! It’s alive!!!

biomimicry, climate, ecology, ecosystems, energy, sustainable materials, systems, nature, technology


Marissa Hebert


Lauren Kroll


Ziwei Wang

In treating nature as a model, measure, and mentor, we can draw inspiration from its forms, processes, and systems.



shark skin
Shark skin
Source: NOAA

Have you ever seen a building that breathes through thousands of pores and whose skin can adjust its permeability to control the necessary flow of light, matter, and temperature between the inside and outside? Or a structure combined with systems inspired by geometries in nature, like plant cells, that use minimal material through patterns of continuous branching to distribute forces while also carrying water and nutrients? Biomimicry is quickly emerging as one of the next architectural frontiers and is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.

With a growing population and an increase in industrialization, human activity has dramatic effects on the environment and is thought to be the main contributor to climate change. The challenge for the current generation has become reversing these effects and finding ways to live more sustainably… but a sustainable world already exists! Nature has been evolving for 3.8 billion years and the answers to a resilient future are all around us. Steve Jobs once said “the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new
era is beginning.” 

In treating nature as a model, measure, and mentor, we can draw inspiration from its forms, processes, and systems to create architecture that has the ability to adapt to the ever-changing environment and contribute to the health of natural systems through biological interdependence. Emerging technologies such as materials grown from bacteria and microorganisms to dye-sensitized solar cells that generate power by mimicking photosynthesis–the primary form of energy production that sustains biological life–are examples of a new paradigm in design. These types of technologies can help to create closed-loop cycles that thrive in balance with the Earth’s complex systems.

So look around! Become inspired by the surrounding ecosystems and learn from nature’s wisdom. Rather than forcing nature to conform, what approaches can be taken to develop designs that will be ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible to sustain a desirable quality of human life indefinitely?

Aloe polyphylla
Source: Flickr
romanesco broccoli
Romanesco broccoli
Source: Flickr