Incorporating biomimicry into building materials and design was a major topic of discussion at the recent Living Product Expo in Pittsburgh, hosted by the International Living Future Institute. It’s a concept that deserves consideration, and one that we at 475 have reflected upon. The main idea is to use ecosystem services as templates. Some companies, builders, inventors and environmentalists are asking themselves: how would nature solve this problem? They use blueprints from organisms to solve human problems of design.
It’s so simple that it’s surprising it has taken us this long to notice what surrounds us. Natural ecosystems have been thriving and surviving for longer than humans have inhabited this planet. It makes sense that embedded in nature are clues to sustainability and efficiency.
Here are two examples of biomimicy in building, as highlighted in Janine Benyus’s Ted Talks speech:
Calera is a cement manufacturing company that is borrowing the recipe from coral using CO2 as a building block. This process turns cement into an energy positive item, where as traditional production of cement usually releases a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere.
OneSun is building solar cells based on how a leaf works. They are inexpensive & rechargeable.
There is a type of beetle that’s one-layer shell is waterproof, strong and breathable…
…which sounds a lot like our INTESANA, a high performance vapor variable WRB membrane for airtight construction. A full explanation of how INTESANA works can be found in our INTESANA Primer post. If you look at cells and membranes in nature, “smart” materials like these have been around forever. Perhaps the engineers behind our interior membranes, INTELLO and DB+ were imitating the characteristics of wood, which would be another example of biomimicy. For building purposes, INTELLO and DB+ surpass wood’s function because they ensure airtighness (with seam sealed by TESCON VANA) and are vapor variable.
The more we talk about this fascinating field of study, the more we disconnect its association to biomimetics. As architect Michael Pawlyn explains in The Economist’s Lessons of Design Learned from Nature, “There are quite a few species that have been studied by defense industries in order to develop sophisticated weapons using parasites, natural toxins, germ warfare and the like.” That’s Biometrics. Biomimicry is all about finding sustainable solutions.
So why aren’t we using ideas like these in building exclusively? Change takes time, but we are on the right path. Architect Stephanie Vierra in her article Biomimicry: Designing to Model Nature for Whole Building Design Guide says, “Recent success stories exist in terms of how biomimicry can be applied to building design. While buildings serve to protect us from nature’s extremes, this does not mean that they do not have anything to learn from the biological world. In fact, nature regularly builds structures with functionality that human-built structures could usefully emulate. Biomimetic research, science, and applications continue to grow and are already influencing the next generation of building products and systems as well as whole building designs.”
Here, here! For tips and tools to building with sustainability in mind, reach out to our team. And don’t forget to check out our recently acquired DECLARE product labels for INTELLO, TESCON VANA, and TESCON Primer RP.