Innovation Modeled from Nature

Photo Credit: Biomimicry Institute

In today’s world, technological innovations are rapidly taking place with no intention of slowing down. The innovation process typically consists of companies either reformulating their existing products for improvement or emulating a competitor’s product. While this has proved effective to date, an increasingly prominent method, termed bioinspired innovation, offers a new opportunity for these companies to create products and processes inspired by the proven designs of nature. While there are different forms of bioinspired innovation (biomimicry, bioutilization, etc.), they all look to nature’s processes as inspiration. The organisms of the natural world have consistently faced challenges throughout Earth’s 3.8 billion year lifespan. In order to stick around and adapt to these challenges, organisms are required to innovate—this makes them the experts, not us. Companies employing bioinspired innovation study these natural processes attentively with the intent of replicating them into a new and innovative product or process.

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How is Biomimicry Inspiring Sustainable Design?

Photo credit: Inhabitat

Every year, about 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere from concrete production alone. As cities continue to grow (according to the UN, world urban populations are expected to increase by 84% by 2050), the amount of polluting building materials being created will increase right along with them. And it isn’t simply the materials that are causing problems. A study and report titled “Buildings and Climate Change,” completed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), revealed that “over 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions take place during the operational phase of buildings, when energy is used for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, appliances, and other applications.” The main problem with a building’s lifetime of energy consumption is that the energy is most likely coming from a fossil fuel-powered plant. How are we going to design buildings with harmless materials, both for our planet and the people occupying them? What can we utilize in our buildings to make sure their annual energy needs are kept to a bare minimum? Read more

Biomimicry in the Built Environment: Nature’s Answers to Our Toughest Problems

Photo credit: Tomaz Gregoric

In a fast-paced present, rushing into the future, Biomimicry is a systems-based approach to innovation and design that looks to the past. Specifically, the 3.8 billion years of research and development that nature has completed through the ages. The term “biomimicry” was coined by Janine Benyus in her 1997 book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, and has inspired design improvements in the built environment ever since. By focusing on evolutionary successes, we can find solutions to many of the most complicated problems we encounter today. For the host of global sustainability issues humanity is up against – the changing climate, inadequate access to fresh water, and diminishing natural resources – nature is a lean guide to drive positive change. Read more