The Year in Biomimicry, with inventions inspired by butterflies, penguins, and slime mold.
Another butterfly-inspired product is Morphotext, “the world’s first optical coloring fiber,” made up of layers of polyester and nylon, which create colors by the way light interacts with the different thicknesses of fiber – there is no dye or pigment.
Is biomimicry really a good idea? You can have biomimicry without being green; and what is involved in getting it to work, especially on the scale of an entire city?
The Biomimicry Guild believes that the way to making the city sustainable is to emulate the processes and design strategies of the moist deciduous forests of the region, which they say are “locally attuned, benign, interdependent and optimized”.
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[Gaurav Shorey of The Energy and Resources Institute in Delhi says] “You can make a building that resembles a beehive or a seashell, or you can try to recreate a forest canopy, but if in the process, you’re using a lot of concrete and metal, then you’re not creating a green building.” Biomimicry is only effective if it’s used judiciously.
The principles of biomimicry are also being questioned. Rajan Rawal of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University in Ahmedabad, believes that natural systems and design only make sense in natural settings. “Human beings are not ants,” he says. “Materials and designs suited to ants aren’t necessarily the best for humans.”
I’ll admit to thinking biomimicry is really cool, and sometimes it does lead to really neat inventions (like color-changing fabric!), but on the scale of buildings or even whole cities, whether or not it works well enough to justify its use seems up in the air right now. I’m glad people are trying it, and I hope they get good data to compare it to more traditional methods of building.