Ecobalance and Biomimicry are the Sincerest Forms of Flattery

Eco balance & Biomimicry

Ecobalance is a concept in which humans minimize their environmentally destructive tendencies through the design of systems connected to water, air, energy, materials, and food. It seeks equilibrium between the built and natural environments by considering all the life support systems within the context of a building life cycle. The more self-supporting a building in a circular economy, the less disruptive the building is to the natural world. Biomimicry is a methodology defined as the science and art of imitating nature to find solutions to human problems.

Now take the plunge and combine the two, and the bottom line is building environments become less intrusive and less resource hogging. In a perfect world, buildings would become the sincerest form of flattery by mimicking nature as much as possible and limiting their un-natural impact on the earth and its resources to the greatest extent. It is difficult to not wax enthusiastically about this approach because it is already leading to stunning new architectural and engineering designs and products unimaginable a decade ago.

The ecobalance approach using the biomimicry methodology considers all the possibilities of building planning, design, and systems integration that can create an ideal, thoroughly green balance. It represents state-of-the-art, we-can-do-better, up-the-scale-of-integration principles and practices by taking into account architectural, engineering, and building aspects. Both ecobalance and biomimicry are based on the belief that we can learn from nature, whether it is the sun, birds, leaf energy harvesting, flowing rivers, breezes and all of nature’s other delights. For example, blue mussels using thin tentacles to attach themselves to objects beneath the surface of water inspired the development of formaldehyde-free, non-toxic wood glue. How about a self-healing polymer reminiscent of natural bone healing? Fascinating stuff, isn’t it?

Achieving ecobalance by incorporating biomimicry is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. It is a principle solidly based in taking information from the natural environment and melding it with science to create remarkable materials and designs used in commercial and residential buildings. Looking to nature first, to get new ideas for building designs, products and systems, applies to everything, including the building envelope, water recycling, roofing, energy production and use, construction materials, landscaping, and anything else imaginable. Biomimicry used as an ecobalance methodology gets down to research at the nano particle level to find ways to incorporate nature’s ingenuity and adaptability.

This is one of the most exciting, leading-edge new green building areas. Though the biomimicry (and ecobalance) are ideas that have been in existence for 15-20 years, technology is making it easier to bring the concepts to life. It is not just a dream either. African termite mounds are able to maintain a constant temperature throughout the construction of air vents that keep air constantly moving. This principle has been applied to temperature control systems in buildings like the Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe. The building temperature is self-regulated and does not rely on conventional heating and air-conditioning systems.  There are many other projects in progress worth watching. Checkout the Roof and Mushrooms pavilion overlooking Kyoto University and the Outlook Tower in Qatar, both of which mimic nature. The sky is the limit for ecobalance – literally.

Take these concepts to the city level, and the world just became a nicer, more balanced place to live. Green Building Research Institute explores the ecobalance and biomimicry principles and methodologies in its course EcoBalance and Biomimicry: Inspired by Nature available February 19, 2014. This entertaining course has one major prerequisite: Professionals and students must bring open, imaginative minds.

The young science of biomimicry is ripe for new ideas that are not limited by traditional practices. Do you have any ideas that have been tickling your imagination that you would like to share?


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