The Future of Design: Transformative Influence of Biophilia, Biomimicry, and Bioclimatic Techniques

Mon Jun 3, 2024

The Future of Design: Transformative Influence of Biophilia, Biomimicry, and Bioclimatic Techniques

As we near the 2030 SDG goals for the Climate Challenge, prioritizing designs that harmonize with nature becomes imperative. Daily, we strive to minimize our carbon footprint and harness design as a catalyst for positive transformation. Through the integration of biophilic, bioclimatic, and biomimicry principles, we elevate the standard of sustainability. We aim to transition from mere sustainability to regenerative design, surpassing reduction objectives to embrace science-driven targets and initiatives that nurture our ecosystems, empower our workforce, and enrich our communities.

Nurturing Joy Through Biophilic Design

Biophilia, rooted in the belief that our affinity for nature stems from our evolutionary history, asserts that we are inherently connected to the natural world both physically and emotionally. In essence, we are not just in nature, but a part of it. 

Biophilic design serves as a conduit to enhance both human and ecological well-being, allowing us to harmonize with the distinctive ecology of our surroundings, encompassing place, culture, history, and aesthetics. It fosters spaces that evoke joy, inspiration, and a sense of interconnectedness. 

 A prime example of biophilia in action can be witnessed in Biophilia - The Garden Center in Pune. They have solutions that efficiently capture roof runoff, channeling it into a rain garden and water feature traversing the campus.

Bioclimatic: Harnessing Nature's Wisdom for Optimal Performance

Bioclimatic design prioritizes the utilization of passive strategies for performance optimization, preceding the consideration of active measures like solar panels. 

Throughout history, traditional architecture has ingeniously responded to local environmental challenges, yielding timeless solutions. Take, for instance, the cave dwellings of 15th-century Granada in Spain or Kanheri Caves in Borivali National Park in Mumbai, where interiors maintain a consistent, comfortable temperature year-round. Similarly, the ancient 'pallozas' of Northern Spain or the huts in rural India, with their compact design and thatched roofs, demonstrate sustainable principles applicable even today. Yet, amidst our quest for modernity, we often neglect these invaluable lessons from the past when constructing our homes. 

Thatched hut in a resort in India.

By analyzing solar, daylight, and wind conditions concurrently, resilience simulations can be conducted during the early stages of conceptual design to assess and refine orientation and massing on-site, while ensuring optimal energy usage and human comfort year-round. 

This approach can emphasize mitigating weather and climate-related risks by proactively preparing for extreme events rather than reacting to them. While rising water levels pose a significant global challenge, extreme heat, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, presents another formidable obstacle. 

The future hinges on green buildings to combat climate change. With advancements in technology and optimizations in design, construction, and operations, there are abundant opportunities to imbue both existing and new structures with eco-friendly practices.

Innovating with Nature: The Power of Biomimicry

Biomimicry, distinguished by its inspiration drawn from nature, stands out among nature-inspired design approaches by mirroring functional strategies refined over 3.8 billion years of evolution. By looking to nature as a blueprint, biomimicry facilitates intelligent design and sustainable innovation, fostering conditions conducive to life. 

To reverse climate change and safeguard the planet's biodiversity, collective efforts are imperative to reduce carbon emissions, sequester carbon, and draw down atmospheric carbon. Biomimicry emerges as a fertile source of inventive solutions to address this formidable challenge. Whatever your role in combating climate change, it's crucial to inquire, "How would nature tackle this?" 

The Tower at PNC Plaza in Pittsburgh exemplifies this ethos. On days of extreme temperatures, the building façade remains sealed; however, during "net zero" days, sizable air gates on the exterior automatically open, enabling the building to passively regulate its internal climate. (Net zero days occur when the HVAC system is deactivated, and windows are opened, with fresh air meeting the project's requirements.) To shield the building and its occupants from the sun's rays, the design incorporates a shield on the west side, while a double-skinned façade facilitates natural ventilation. Additionally, the tower's shape is optimized to harness solar energy and expel warm air, further enhancing its eco-efficiency.

The Tower at PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh. Photo by Connie Zhou.

Shaping the Future

In the 21st century, revolutionary advancements will emerge at the intersection of biology and technology, envisioning a world where humanity thrives in harmony with nature's intricate systems. A global coalition, including architects, engineers, designers, manufacturers, and business leaders, is leading the charge in creating regenerative buildings and products to revitalize our planet. Central to this effort is the rehabilitation and protection of wildlife, preservation of green spaces, and restoration of natural habitats using biophilic, bioclimatic, and biomimicry design principles. 

 Our purpose is to guide clients on a transformative journey rooted in nature. By embracing this approach, we foster practical and innovative solutions, driving us towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

Dr. Vidya Priya Rao 
Her purpose is to equip 1 million people with adaptive skills and toolkit to ride the waves of change for breakthrough results.  She is the Founder of Innovatus Marketers Touchpoint LLP and author of the book Master Agile and Resilient Strategy. She can usually be found facilitating a strategy / innovation workshop, designing actionable visual tools, teaching design principles at business and design schools, or raising awareness of design to solve complex problems. When not absorbed in writing her second book, Vidya loves cooking, trekking, and travelling. She lives in Mumbai, India.

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