When thinking about biomimicry there is often a lack of a clear definition of the various approaches that a designer can initially employ. Looking into possible approaches, we can initially identify two categories:
- Design looking to biology: defining a human need or design problem and looking to the ways other organisms or ecosystems solve this , or
- Biology influencing design: identifying a particular characteristic in an organism or ecosystem and translating that into human designs (Biomimicry Guild, 2007).
Maibritt Pedersen Zari from Victoria University School of Architecture proposes a framework for understanding the application of biomimicry, attempting to clarify the potential of biomimicry as a tool for designers. This framework can allow designers who wish to employ biomimicry to identify a starting point and an effective approach to take. The first part of the framework determines which aspect of ‘bio’ has been ‘mimicked’:
- the organism, referring to a specific organism like a plant or animal
- behaviour, translating how an organism behaves or relates to a larger context and,
- ecosystem, looking at the common principles that allow ecosystems to successfully function
In a deeper level there are five questions that lead to aspects that can make a building biomimetic:
- what it looks like? (form),
- what it is made out of (material),
- how it is made (construction),
- how it works (process),
- or what it is able to do (function).
For an architect, this framework serves as a guide to identify potential areas in which biomimicry can be applied!