Definition:

Biomimicry

Today’s complex human challenges to come up with sustainable solutions for a healthy natural environment demands an innovative approach. In a circular economy, the aim is to produce no waste or pollution and to re-use and regenerate products, components and materials in a continuous cycle. A very important aspect of a successful production cycle is the design of the products and it’s production systems. Biomimicry aims at using nature as our teacher, and humans as nature’s apprentices. Nature is inspiring to human innovation and can teach us a lot about effective design and technology. In biomimicry, the recipes of organisms are used for new design solutions and ways to optimize technology.

Definition of biomimicry

Biomimetics is a field of study to understand biological functions and structures of various organisms and translate those functions and structures into the design and fabrication of industrial and technological products and systems. It is interdisciplinary because it involves biologists, engineers, chemists and more. Nature provides us simple solutions with basic materials to complex issues. It is a way to minimize the materials used in the production process and maximize the function of the end products.

How does biomimicry work?

Although as a concept is increasingly being discussed by policymakers, scientists and designers, the practical application remains largely unrealized. Examples of success stories of products and systems that have passed the design and production stage are rare. The approach commonly falls into two categories [1]:

Design looking to biology- Defining a design problem and looking for ways organisms or ecosystems offer a solution. The downside is that is the underlying structures of ecosystems versus the human-designed systems are rarely questioned in this approach. The point of departure is the human need or problem and to find a matching biological solution. The lack of scientific knowledge in this approach should be resolved by having a biologist or ecologist on board of the design team.

> Biology influencing design – Identifying a particular characteristic or function of a certain organism or ecosystem and translating that into a new human design. The starting point of this design process is scientific knowledge of relevant biological research. The problem with this approach is that the relevant research has to be conducted first before the design process can start. So the biologist has to recognize the potential of the creation of a new human design.

Why is it a sustainable solution?

Biomimicry can be seen as a tool to produce regenerative materials, products, and systems created by humans. Because it mimics the organisms and their systems it should help human systems to use the natural materials around us and to maximize their usage with minimal use of materials and therefore enhancing our ecological footprint.

It is important to understand the levels at which it can be applied. Most current applications are on a micro-level, so the form and function of one organism applied to one type of product or system. The goal is not only on the micro-level but at a macro level to design a larger human system that resembles our ecosystem in function and form.

[1] Zari, M.P. “Biomimetic approaches to architectural design for increased sustainability.” School of Architecture, Victoria University, 2007