by Asha Singhal
“Consider this: all the ants on the planet, taken together, have a biomass greater than that of humans. Ants have been incredibly industrious for millions of years, yet their productiveness nourishes plants, animals, and soil. Human industry has been in full swing for little over a century, yet it has brought about a decline in almost every ecosystem on the planet. Nature doesn’t have a design problem. People do.”
Does this quote bring to mind the complication we humans seem to have created for ourselves? The one that implores the question of sustainable living. Where do we stand when it comes to sustainability? The quote above is from William McDonough who gave birth to the idea of Cradle-to-cradle certification about 15 years ago. It seeks to rethink the idea of waste, as a resource; just the way nature does.
It is one of the many steps humanity has taken to move toward a life that is more sensitive to the issue of sustainability. Another one of them is Biomimicry, one that we wish to discuss in this article. The term was popularized by scientist and author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. As defined by the Biomimicry Institute, “Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” The core principle relies on how nature has already solved most of the problems we humans are currently challenged with. Simply put, it is a way of thinking about how to incorporate nature’s diverse, yet abundant designs, patterns, and strategies developed over the course of 3.8 billion years and emulating them into our human design challenges.
As an Architect, it is hard to miss the damage being caused to the environment by the traditional practices of the AEC industry. One of the more recent articles I read brings to light that ‘building operations and “embodied carbon” (the energy and materials used in construction) account for a whopping 40 percent of the world’s current carbon emissions.’ Equally, this means the enormous potential they carry for change. Holding that kind of responsibility means it is incredibly important to be mindful of our practices. It is not enough to wait and watch to see who brings about that change, we have done that for long enough; what’s important is bringing about all these ideas to ACTION. And we need to take those actions NOW.
It was my early fascination with Science and Mathematics which drew me to the idea of Biomimicry in Architecture. If you want to look at truly beautiful designs, try looking at life. The deeper I dove into the subject, the more I realized the true beauty held in this ideology: Life’s mechanisms are intricate, running at the molecular level. It creates with a simple set of raw materials, procured locally, manufactured at body temperatures and pressure, processed silently in water. The hardest material in nature goes on to decompose, not unlike its softest. There is NO waste in nature.
This reflects the genuine gap we’re facing in what we call ‘good design’. Is it truly good if it just ends up adding to our already overflowing landfills?
A sustainable world already exists; to understand strategies of adaptation & resiliency, who better to look at for inspiration than Nature itself?
Please share your experience in the comments. If you want to become a Bioinspired Circular Innovator, a Change Maker for humankind going forward, then please contact me.
Cheers Asha Singhal