Notes from the field: Biomimicry session at the Living Product Expo 15

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The definition of biomimicry is the act of using nature as a model for human inventions.

Here is something I learned from the recent Biomimicry session at the Living Product Expo 15 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center here in Pittsburgh on September 17.

James Kraus, Vice President and Senior Project Designer at HOK, described how they have created a Biomimicry Taxonomy that has 57 “challenges” to it, funneled into seven groups. (There are other taxonomies out there, see: that has eight groups and 130 elements!) HOK then described how they are working to apply biomimicry to five basic challenge areas on specific projects. These are:

  1. Facades. A turtle’s shell is a great example of a design that incorporates both flexibility and redundancy.
  2. Structure. Designers are learning a lot from investigating the “semi-rigid bio-structures” of living organisms. They also consider the rigid versus non-rigid aspect of physiology: e.g. bones vs. muscles.
  3. Water Capture Management. Though more from the physical world than a living creature leads some designers to figuring ways to harvest water from the daily cycle of fog in the San Francisco Bay Area. If we can accomplish this, imagine the reduction of stress on local reservoirs and water supply mechanisms.
  4. Landscapes. They are treating landscaping as the “Fifth Façade” of a structure and giving it just as miuch attention to form and function.
  5. Robotics. Consider the ability for self-assembly, self-repair, even self-replication of buildings. (Is anyone else thinking of that scene in Big when the robot toy transforms into a building? A scene ahead of its time!) Also, consider the sorts of communications and systems thinking that can occur when the Internet of Things becomes fully fleshed out in buildings.


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