You are on page 1of 6

Florendo, Martina Jeunesse B.

Biomimicry and adaptive design on building skins

Architects today are constantly in search for solutions to improve the

adaptability to climate, the environmental quality and energy efficiency of
buildings. The built environment is increasing held accountable for global
environmental and societal problems with vast proportions of waste, material
and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the habitats
humans have created for themselves (Mazria, 2003; Doughty and Hammond,
2004). Successful solutions to many problems in technology and science have
emerged by implying design or strategies from biology. A search for innovative
ideas may be the solution in reducing, reusing and recycling energy in the field
of architecture.

The application of Biomimicry has shown to be a suitable approach. Relating

biomimicry gives a potential of shifting the built environment to a more
sustainable paradigm, integrating it to architecture incorporates an
understanding of ecosystems that goes beyond simply sustaining current
conditions to a restorative practice where the built environment becomes a vital
composition for the regeneration of natural ecosystems.

Observing and learning behavioral patterns of living organisms provide an

opportunity to improve the adaptive strategies of a building design. These living
organisms have all developed through evolution, these different kinds of
organisms have different ways of adapting to different climatic and
environmental conditions. Using biomimicry opens a whole range of application
fields related to architecture.
Biomimetics in architecture is a discipline to gain innovation in architecture by
using natural role models, and the comparison between nature and built
environment creates new insights (Gruber, 2011).

Emerging biomimetic technologies are currently in use or are being developed

that will contribute to making this possible. Integrating biomimetic principles
could help us achieve the best possible architectural solutions and serve as an
innovation in architecture to promote sustainability and efficiency in buildings.

What are adaptive building skins?

In the current form of climate change, conscious about nature’s condition and
a need to reduce their carbon footprint, architects today are constantly in
search for solutions to the improve the adaptability to climate, the
environmental quality and energy efficiency of buildings.

The FACET project further explains that, “ideally adaptive building shells have the
potential to practically eliminate the heat demand and to reduce the total
heating and cooling demand by a factor 10; this is even a factor 2-3 lower
compared to the very energy efficient passive housing techonology” (Loonen;
Trcka; hensen, 2011).

The concept of adaptability of building skins has been regarded as “a

necessary step towards further energy efficiency improvements in the built
environment” (Andresen; Aschehoug, 2008).

Climate adaptive building skins (CABS), have the ability to adapt themselves to
environmental changes, it’s possible to get the most out of variable weather
conditions, regarding energy demand, thermal conditions, lighting, visual
comfort and air quality.
Relating biomimicry to adaptive building skins

Everyone wants a development that meets the need of the present without
having to compromise for the needs of future generations and having a minimal
negative effect in nature. Biomimicry serves as a basis for a new innovative
design approach which gives a potential of ways to shift the built environment
to a more sustainable paradigm. Innovation inspired by nature as one which
studies nature and then imitates or takes inspiration from its design and
processes to solve human problems (Benyus, 2002).

The relevance of a biomimetic approach to climate adaptive building skins are

analyzed through the correlation between these adaptive strategies and the
requirements of an adaptive building skin. It is about taking advantage of what
nature has to offer. For every problem there is a significant solution. The fact that
nature provides a great source of adaptive strategies requires a targeted
methodology design that meets the requirements of adaptive building skins
(Badarnah, 2012). Regenerative architecture is the practice of incorporating the
natural world as the medium for architecture. Biomimicry can provide solutions
for various structural efficiency, water efficiency, zero-waste systems, thermal
environment, and energy supply which are essential in the field of sustainable

Adaptive strategies for functional requirements

Analysis of these strategies and their key principles play a vital role to determine
these strategies to adaptive building skin designs. The adaptation of these
envelopes takes place in relation to these physical aspects:

 Heat in relation to thermal regulation, conduction, convection and

radiation. Almost all living organisms rely on the sun as a heat source
Temperature regulation is a fundamental characteristic of living
organisms, using different strategies that are capable of maintaining these
comes in certain limits.
 Airflow in relation to ventilation, wind flow and velocity, variation in
humidity, convection caused by temperature differences through venturi
effect and air exchange in the environment plays a vital role of these
living organisms.
 Lighting, natural organisms have developed different strategies to
regulate the intensity or avoid exposure to light.
 Water is essential to living organisms, it is a source and medium necessary
for survival. Organisms have developed different strategies depending on
the environment they are in.
 Energy generation, living organisms have developed different strategies
to adapt to the environment in terms of energy management. To capture
energy through the process of photosynthesis, where the distribution
patterns of leaves improve exposure.

Aschehoug, Ø., Anderson, I., editors. (2008) Annex 44 – Integrating

environmentally responsive elements in buildings, IEA – ECBCS

Badarnah, L. Towards the living envelope: Biomimetics for building envelope

adaptation, 2012. PhD thesis, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The

Benyus, J. (1997) Biomimicry - Innovation Inspired by Nature, New York, Harper

Collins Publishers

Biomimicry Guild (2007) Innovation Inspired by Nature Work Book, Biomimicry

Guild, April.

Doughty, M. & Hammond, G. (2004) Sustainability and thr Built Environment at

and Beyond the City Scale. Building and Environment, 39, 1223-1233.

Gruber, P. (2011) Biomimetics in architecture [Architekturbionik]. Biomimetics:

materials, structures and processes, pp. 127-148. Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Loonen, R., Trcka, M., Hensen, J. Exploring the potential of climate adaptive
building shells. Proceedings of the 12th Int. IBPSA Conference, Sydney, 14-16
November (2011), Int. Building Performance Simulation Association, pp. 2148-

Mazria, E. (2003) It’s the Architecture, Stupid! Solar Today, May / June.

Pedersen Zari, M., J. B. Storey (2007) An ecosystem based biomimetic theory for
a regenerative built environment Lisbon Sustainable Building Conference 07,
Lisbon, Portugal.

Singh,A., Nayyar, N. (2015) Biomimicry-An Alternative Solution to Sustainable

Buildings, Volume 2, Number 14; July-September, 2015 pp. 96-101