Are you interested in eco-conscious living? I want to hear from you. Book a call HERE.
About Podcast Resources Blog Contact Sign-up for my Newsletter Login

Why we should emulate nature in design

Humans are influenced by nature in many different ways. One of those ways is through design. In many cases, we take inspiration from our natural surroundings when it comes to architecture, interior design, and many of our human-made inventions.

While taking inspiration from nature may be something as simple as utilizing natural colour schemes, nature-based design can also be much more complex. Take biomimicry for example.

Making design better!

Biomimicry is the reproduction of natural forms and their functions, to make human-designed objects and machines more efficient. According to 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.”

Some quick examples of biomimicry include:

  • Increasing the efficiency of wind turbine blades, airplane wings, and propellers by mimicking the bumps seen on the front edge of a whale fin.
  • Decreasing the noise level of Japan’s bullet train when emerging from tunnels by designing the train’s nose cone based on a kingfisher, a bird that dives seamlessly into water.
  • Looking to the logarithmic spiral of the shells of mollusks to reduce the energy requirements and noise levels of fans and other rotors.

Wisdom of nature

Biomimicry is a subsection of biophilic design. If you haven’t heard this term before or need a refresher on what exactly it means, biophilic design can be defined as a design strategy that incorporates natural elements into the built environment.

Biophilic design draws on the concept of biophilia. Biophilia is a term which describes human’s innate tendency to affiliate with nature. It is thought that humans are attracted to nature and nature-like elements as a result of our evolution. After all, throughout our evolution, humans relied exclusively on natural elements to fulfil our needs.

The truth is that nature is and always has been a vital resource and lifeline for us humans. So why not learn from nature’s wisdom?

The spider’s web solution

Look at the world around you – look at all the ways in which other species are thriving. Isn’t it amazing how surprisingly strong a spider’s web is despite the fact that spider silk is so lightweight? Maybe we should be taking cues from nature when it comes to the design and function of our human-made objects and structures.

For example, that spider web thread actually inspired engineers and architects to design suspension bridges with load-bearing cables that support the weight of the structure. This is exactly the same engineering principles seen in a spider’s web. Pretty amazing - and time-tested by nature!

Biomimicry and buildings

Biomimicry has some really cool applications, especially in buildings. For example, the Gherkin is a commercial skyscraper located in London, England which was inspired by a type of sea sponge, called Venus’ flower basket sponge.

Image sourced from: Wikipedia

This sea sponge feeds by directing sea water to flow through its lattice-like exoskeleton and is directed upwards by flagella. The Gherkin mimics the shape and lattice structure of the sponge in order to create a highly efficient natural ventilation system.

Basically, what the sponge does with water, the Gherkin does with air.

Half the energy!

In the winter, the building’s insulating effect keeps the building warm through passive solar energy. In the summer, warm air is pulled out of the building due to external pressure differentials. As a result of this design, the Gherkin ends up consuming approximately half the power that a similar sized tower would.

Singapore’s Esplanade Theatres is another great example of biomimicry in buildings, as it was inspired by the structure of a durian, Singapore’s national fruit.

The Esplanade Theatres were designed with a glass skin exterior that mimics the thorn covered skin of the durian plant. The building has a glazed steel space frame with triangular aluminum sun shields.

Depending on the time of day and the angle at which sun is hitting the building, the shields are set to be more open or closed in order to protect the glass façade from direct sunlight.

This allows for spectacular views while reducing the incoming solar radiation, as the sun’s angle changes, to reduce overall cooling costs.

Benefits of biomimicry

What are the main benefits of using biomimetic design? For one, mimicking the strategies used by species around us has the potential to increase the efficiency and improve the performance of various man-made objects that we rely on in our everyday lives.

The natural solution

Nature has already fixed many design problems that we face. If we just look to plants, animals, and microorganisms for guidance we will find solutions and improvements! For example, a German company, Ispo, has developed a paint that mimics the petals of a lotus flower which naturally repels dust and dirt particles. This technology greatly reduces the need to wash interior and exterior walls.

The use of biomimicry through biomimetic design has great potential when it comes to solving our sustainability issues and addressing climate change. Instead of relying on harmful chemicals and depleting carbon stores, nature relies on a circular flow of energy and resources. There are clearly ways for life to flourish without harming the environment. It’s all about finding balance – and that’s what biomimicry is all about!

Finally, biomimetic design can really alter the way we look at the natural world. It can’t be denied that biomimetic design opens up our eyes to the wonders and advantages of nature. Maybe this is what it takes for some of us to stop treating nature as a resource to be exploited and view it as a resource for learning instead.

Biomimetic design helps us think of nature as a mentor and embrace the natural solutions to our design and sustainability problems.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join my mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. Your information will not be shared.


Yes, I want more Flourishing in my life!

Sign up for my weekly Flourishing newsletter. It is full of ideas, inspiration and tips for Sustainable Wellbeing and Green Living.