Regional Specialist Program (BSpecialty-Biomimicry Specialty Program)
In response to a tremendous expression of interest from our friends, collaborators and colleagues, The Biomimicry Group is pleased to offer the Biomimicry Specialty (BSpecialty) Program—an 8-month biomimicry training program designed to grow regional biomimicry expertise among individuals that form locally attuned biomimicry networks. Participants in the program will graduate as Regional Biomimicry Specialists, be empowered to incorporate biomimicry into their current or planned professions and serve as alliance members to their local biomimicry network.
Relationship will expand mainstream application of bio-inspired design; projects under way in India, with developing opportunities in North America and The Middle East.
HOK and theBiomimicry Guildhave forged a first-of-its-kind alliance linking the natural and built environment.
This exclusive relationship between one of the world's largest architectural design firms and the only bio-inspired innovation company will integrate nature's innovations in the planning and design of buildings, communities and cities worldwide.
Established by biologists Janine Benyus and Dr. Dayna Baumeister in 1998, Biomimicry is a science that studies nature's best ideas and imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Biomimicry has inspired numerous commercial products and individual building projects, and the new alliance between the Biomimicry Guild and HOK has the potential to dramatically expand its scale and impact.
"Given the size, breadth and diversity of HOK's design practice, our firm can significantly influence the future generation of architecture, planning and interior design projects around the world," says HOK President Bill Hellmuth.
The design firm HOK and a major car parts manufacturer attempt to build an industrial city of 2 million from scratch, in India, based entirely on "nature’s principles."
It was an unlikely conference room, a barren hill 150 kilometers southeast of Mumbai. But that’s where the three partners met: financiers from Bharat Forge, the world’s largest chassis components manufacturer; planners from HOK, a major international design firm; and a band of biologists from the Biomimicry Guild, a consulting group that looks to biological engineering for design solutions.
Together these three teams had planned to transform the surrounding landscape, a thirsty wasteland, into one of the world’s greenest cities, a thriving industrial metropolis of some 2 million people, designed to perform just like the ecosystem on which its being built — a city greener than Oz, so to speak.
For inspiration, the biologists examined the rocky landscape, the scrub grass and the desiccated thorn bushes for clues on how the genius of life had come to thrive in this forbidding environment.
“The genius has left this place,” they concluded. Then everyone laughed and went on planning recalled Dhaval Barbhaya, HOK’s lead planner.
The project, however, is no joke. Called Khed Special Economic Zone, the city is being heavily marketed as the first urban area to be designed from scratch according to the principles of biomimicry — a concept that many corporations have used for product development, and that HOK has applied to its architecture. The credibility and coffers of large and respectable organizations, not to mention the Indian government, rest on the shoulders of the eight-person Biomimicry Guild guiding the way.
While developers of genetically engineered foods (GEF) strive to produce hardier and higher-yielding plants, ecologists throughout the world eye transgenics skeptically. They fear that these genetically altered plants, may escape into the wild and displace native plants with unforeseen and potentially devastating results. Dr. Wes Jackson, director of the Land Institute in Kansas, a non-profit research facility devoted to alternative agricultural practices, warns that, if misused, biotechnology may lead to the human-induced degradation of the genomes of plant species. “What is being more or less ignored” in the rush to biotechnology, he said in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, “is that some of the same principles and processes that govern an ecosystem, like a forest or a prairie, also operate with genomes. The genome is a miniature ecosystem.”1 Thinking along the same lines, Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists of America suggested that transgenic science practices may release a seemingly harmless gene into our food supply with life-threatening consequences.
Growing knowledge of potential risks to ecosystem and human health is prompting many to insist that GEFs be identified and segregated so that consumers can make a choice for or against them. Which brings us to the obvious question: what alternative to the use of GEFs will we find to feed our ever-growing populations? Rissler advocates an alternative vision for agriculture, one based on nature’s own balance, which she calls “sustainable agriculture” or biomimicry.
Janine Benyus, nature writer and champion of nature-inspired innovation, defines the quest of biomimicry as “the conscious emulation of life’s genius. Innovation inspired by nature.”2 In her revolutionary book of the same name, Benyus describes how maverick scientists at the Land Institute are remaking agriculture using self-sufficient crops able to “live amiably with their fieldmates, stay in sync with their surroundings, build soil beneath them and handle pests with aplomb.”3 Using nature as a standard, rather than something to be subdued or ignored, the Land Institute is developing self-fertilizing and pest-resistant farms modeled on natural ecosystems. Their heuristic research represents an ecology-based approach to food production which contrasts with the organism-based approach of GEFs. According to Jackson, biomimicry provides a healthy alternative to the promotion of genetically altered plants more resistant to pesticides, because biomimicry bypasses the use of chemicals altogether.
BioPower Systems Pty. Ltd are looking to develop biomimicry technologies based on nature’s mechanisms for survival and energy conversion in an ocean environment. They are attempting to mimic nature to develop both ocean wave and tidal energy systems.
The technology is based on 3.8 Billion years of evolutionary optimization in nature’s ocean laboratory. The resulting systems move and sway in tune with the forces of the ocean, and naturally streamline when extreme conditions prevail. This will apparently lead to low design thresholds and associated low costs.
From their website BioPower Systems say, “The wave energy conversion system, bioWAVE™, is based on the swaying motion of sea plants in the presence of ocean waves. The hydrodynamic interaction of the blades with the oscillating flow field is designed for maximum energy absorption. This system has numerous advantages over other wave energy devices. For example, the bioWAVE™ is the only wave energy system that captures a wide swath of incident wave energy without using a large rigid structure. It is also the only such device that absorbs energy over the full water depth and continually self-orients with the wave direction. In extreme wave conditions, including hurricanes, the bioWAVE™ is automatically triggered to cease operating and assume a safe position lying flat against the seabed. This is achieved by back-driving the O-DRIVE™ generator and it effectively eliminates exposure to extreme forces, allowing for lower design tolerances and substantial cost savings. Systems are being developed for 500kW, 1000kW and 2000kW capacities to match conditions in various locations.”
Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. The term biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Other terms often used are bionics, bio-inspiration, and biognosis.
Humans have always looked to nature for inspiration to solve problems. One of the early examples of biomimicry was the study of birds to enable human flight. Although never successful in creating a "flying machine", Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was a keen observer of the anatomy and flight of birds, and made numerous notes and sketches on his observations as well as sketches of various "flying machines". The Wright Brothers, who finally did succeed in creating and flying the first airplane in 1903, also derived inspiration for their airplane from observations of pigeons in flight.
Here is a short video (in French with flemish subtitles for now, english version coming soon!)
Otto Schmitt, an American academic and inventor, coined the term biomimetics to describe the transfer of ideas from biology to technology. The term biomimetics only entered the Websters Dictionary in 1974 and is defined as "the study of the formation, structure, or function of biologically produced substances and materials (as enzymes or silk) and biological mechanisms and processes (as protein synthesis or photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of synthesizing similar products by artificial mechanisms which mimic natural ones".
In 1960, the term bionics was coined by psychiatrist and engineer Jack Steele to mean "the science of systems which have some function copied from nature".Bionics entered the Webster dictionary in 1960 as "a science concerned with the application of data about the functioning of biological systems to the solution of engineering problems". The term bionic took on a different connotation when Martin Caidin referenced Jack Steele and his work in the novel "Cyborg" which later resulted in the 1974 television series "The Six Million Dollar Man" and its spin-offs. The term bionic then became associated with 'the use of electronically-operated artificial body parts' and 'having ordinary human powers increased by or as if by the aid of such devices'. Because the term bionic took on the implication of super natural strength, the scientific community in English speaking countries shied away from using it in subsequent years.
The term biomimicry appeared as early as 1982. The term biomimicry was popularized by scientist and author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Biomimicry is defined in her book as a "new science that studies nature's models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems". Benyus suggests looking to Nature as a "Model, Measure, and Mentor" and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry.
The text from the website explaining the conference:
“The effects of our present lifestyles on the environment are leading towards drastic conditions of major climatic changes as well as the depletion of earth’s natural resources. The way to address this situation is to either sustain natural resources or emulate nature which is already sustainable. Even though much emphasis is placed on matters of sustainability, very few lessons from nature, which is inherently sustainable, find their way into design.
The process of biomimicry also known as biomimetics or biologically inspired designs, involves finding solutions to design problems by emulating the natural world. This is done through the imitation of nature‘s forms, processes and ecosystems to more effectively and sustainably meet design challenges. It also provides potential frameworks to understand how nature works as a system and is therefore a productive and insightful tool for re-imagining the built world.
We invite researchers, educators and professionals from various fields such as architecture, urban design, engineering, design, biology, chemistry, physics and geology to cross their disciplinary boundaries, explore fields of cooperation and share their knowledge and experiences to achieve the ultimate goal of a sustainable built environment.”
Founder Kenny Ausubel coined the term Bioneers in 1990 to describe an emerging culture. Bioneers are social and scientific innovators from all walks of life and disciplines who have peered deep into the heart of living systems to understand how nature operates, and to mimic "nature's operating instructions" to serve human ends without harming the web of life. Nature's principles—kinship, cooperation, diversity, symbiosis and cycles of continuous creation absent of waste—can also serve as metaphoric guideposts for organizing an equitable, compassionate and democratic society.
A Leading Source of Innovative Solutions.
As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, we provide a forum and social hub for education about solutions presented through the Bioneers Conference and our programs. Our media productions leverage this content to reach millions of people around the nation and the world with our award-winning radio series, Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature; anthology book series; television programs; and our interactive website. We act as a key source for the media, including third-party films and the press. Our DVDs, CDs and other educational materials are also used by colleges and schools and by community-based and other organizations to inform and inspire positive change at the local level.