Working Biomimicry

When biomimicry is used as a working structure it is more beneficial to the earth than visual biomimicry like random sculptures of nature whose only purpose is to create the illusion of organic things.  One of the examples of beneficial biomimicry are the Treepods designed by Influx Studio.  These Treepods take the working concept of trees and incorporate these elements into the design of the structures.  The aim of this project is to create air cleaning by creating a system that catches CO2.  The tree that Influx Studio focused on mimicking is the Dragon tree because of the large canopy that provides maximum shading which also allows the structure to support solar panels used to power the air cleaning system.  This approach to creating biomimicry is successful in many ways, it takes in consideration of the visual aspects as well as the working and functional aspects of the Dragon tree.

One of the articles on the Treepods states that “The team suggests embodying and artificially enhancing the capacity of natural trees to clean the air.  Treepods are not designed to replace natural trees, but to act like small air cleaning infrastructures, increasing in many times CO2 absorption” (   This is interesting because the structures are not only mimicking the qualities of trees but pushing them further by enhancing the working aspects of the Treepods.  Taking this approach to biomimicry is more beneficial to the earth than sculptural and visual biomimicry.



One comment

  1. kinde050

    I agree that designs that merely mimic natural forms aren’t as beneficial as those that are inspired by the entire system of an organism and are missing the point of biomimicry. In Janine Benyus’s Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, she states that “a full emulation of nature engages at least three levels of mimicry: form, process, and ecosystem”. Like the Influx Studio’s Treepod project, William McDonough’s Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies building at Oberlin College is one example of a structure that mimics nature’s process and efficiency rather than its appearance. According to McDonough, the structure employs three characteristics of natural organisms: zero waste, natural energy sources, and diversity. By assembling a design team composed of architects, educators, and scientists, and using passive design strategies, the building effectively functions like a tree. McDonough states that the structure “produces oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, is photosynthetic, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, changes colors with the seasons, creates microclimates, and self-replicates while purifying water”. Because the design adopts these plant processes, it produces 30% more energy than it needs to function.

    Dave Barista’s “Living Machine”, discusses that although the building measures high in efficiency, it also integrates the site, culture, and social aspects of the community. The glass façade blurs the definition between inside and outside, which creates a strong sense of place and connects the human environment with the natural ecosystems around it. Additionally, a treatment facility on-site recycles wastewater and channels it back into the building for reuse. The highly ventilated and naturally lit atrium functions as both a communal space in the building and a sort of “town hall” or “public square” of the campus. By moving beyond biomimicry that is based on an image to a more holistic imitation of an organism’s processes like McDonough’s structure does, we can begin to create buildings which fully function in their local ecosystem—reconnecting humans with the natural world around them.

    Benyus, Janine. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York City: n.p., n.d. Print.

    McDonough, William. “Adam Joseph Lewis Environment Science Building.” William McDonough & Partners. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. .

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