How many times did we say and write it? Nature is inspiration, model, measure and guide.
We observe, study and understand it so that we can create and get answers and solutions. In the words of Albert Einstein “Everything you can imagine, nature has already created”.
Innovators of all times have considered its forms and its biological and biomechanical processes as an inspiration to improve our life.
This principle is universally recognized and defined as biomimetics, a cross between biology and technology.
From engineering to architecture and design
In Germany, with the leaves of the lotus flower in mind, which are able to repel water and dirt with it, the Lotus Effect was obtained to make self-cleaning exterior paints.
In Zimbabwe, in the buildings designed by Mick Pearce for the Eastgate Centre, the principles exploited in African termites were used to create buildings that do not need conventional heating or air conditioning.
In Singapore, in the “Gardens by the Bay” botanical garden, technology and botany coexist in perfect symbiosis: among the thousands of plants coming from all over the world, 18 steel trees up to 50 meters in height produce renewable energy. The Supertrees are covered with ferns, orchids, climbing plants and epiphytes, supporting a technology that reproduces the biochemical process of trees, while rainwater harvesting plants redistribute it in the irrigation system.
With the development of new scientific knowledge and new technological tools capable of analyzing, describing, and even reproducing aspects, phenomena, processes of nature that have hitherto been unpublished and unexplored, and in the current phase of the debate on environmental sustainability, the biomimetic or bio-inspired approach to design appears to be very promising and intended to offer an even more significant and decisive contribution in the future.
Architects, engineers and designers have at their disposal the “experiments” that natural evolution has refined over millions of years, based on the principle of “minimum investment for maximum yield”: zero waste, no waste production and use of the minimum amount of energy possible in order to guarantee greater performance for the perpetuation of the species. The biological means for a sustainable design are potentially unlimited and it is clear how designers can derive more and more useful suggestions from nature.
In order to obtain really appreciable results in terms of environmental sustainability from bio-inspired design, it would be desirable to look at and question nature in a new way and with new scientific and cultural tools, as well as effectively integrate the principles and tools of biomimesis with the most consolidated strategies of design for sustainability. In this way, biomimetics may in the future provide the culture of design with a not only promising but truly strategic contribution to the development of sustainable, innovative and future-proof design solutions, which are able to combine the environmental, socio-cultural and economic dimension of sustainability in a balanced way and with a vision.
Among the most active scientists in the field of biomimetics, Janine Benyus argues that “the more the world of men works in a similar way to the natural one, the longer we will resist in this big house, which is also ours, but not only ours“. Biomimesis is born from the awareness that nature is a database of sustainable design innovations, an archive of immediately available patents, a research and development laboratory at our disposal”.