Social reference or social comparison theory suggests we learn about our own abilities and attitudes by comparing ourselves with others. We usually seek to compare ourselves with peers and/or those with reasonable similarity in form, focus, or function. However, one of the quickest ways to initiate change is to radically change who or what you compare yourself to entirely. Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry Guild, began her talk at MIT School of Architecture + Planning last week with a call to arms. ‘Fundamentally change our designs by changing what we compare ourselves to… right now’. Ms. Benyus noted that by comparison, nature can inform our models for articulation and function, provide measures for success, and be a mentor for design and fabrication. Comparison can be made at the smallest scale of materials design, all the way up to examination of super-organisms and ecosystems. Examples of current biomimetic endeavors resulting from these comparisons ranged from a group of engineers and scientists examining the plant microfluidics to develop a building skin that leverages evapotranspiration to conduct water vertically and cool the building, to how protoplasmic networks developed by slime mould might help us plan more efficient regional transportation networks. Happily, the informed audience in attendance motivated Ms Benyus to share some of the more complex biomimetic work in progress around the world. Some of the concepts presented were truly inspirational. A few of the broader lessons presented were:
Life creates systems where the material is the mechanism. For example hygriscence serotiny (rain-cued seed release) in desert plants. Rain is the reason (wet-conditions are advantageous to germination), but also the trigger and mechanism (the cycle of saturation and drying distorts seed pod tissues, forcing the seed expulsion). A corollary biomimetic skylight system discussed balanced day-lighting and solar heat-gain by integrating thermodynamic material that obscured the glass when heated.
Nature pulls, not pushes. This principle was explored relative to evapotranspiration (mentioned above), and repurposing the functional structure of aquaporin proteins that regulate the flow of water, discovered in 2003 in cell membranes. Today an innovative company in Denmark is developing a desalinization system based on these structures that is estimated to reduce desalination energy costs by 70 – 80% when compared to traditional reverse osmosis. (http://www.aquaporin.dk/)
Life is generous. It creates enough to share. Discussion of this principle touched on biomimetic study being done at Cal. Tech on innovative wind farm design. Design development is based on analogous research of energy transfer in fish schools, wherein water diverted by one fish creates vortices that share propulsive energy with adjacent fish. (http://dabiri.caltech.edu/research/wind-energy.html)
*Thanks to Emil Cuevas for help with drafting this blog post.
Susan Welker, AIA - 18 May 2013
Exactly! I did research during my Masters in Architecture about how more w...
Yen Cao - 15 May 2013
Way to go Brian! Congrats.
Air Monitoring - 15 May 2013
Really, its nice information, I read this whole and carefully. This covers ...
Don Wesley - 14 May 2013
Sara: What an honor, and so well deserved! You have always been a very sp...
Bob Farwell - 13 May 2013
Sara: Congratulations! I have always been impressed by your talents,work e...