“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
Nature is about the flow and exchange of energy in the universe. Spend time in nature and you’ll begin to open your eyes, ears, mind, and senses to the interconnected patterns embedded in the universe.
The core principles of biomimicry help to deepen our connection with nature; to extract and emulate design strategies in innovative ways to establish sustainable systems for regeneration.
Biomimicry – innovation inspired by nature
The Japanese Shinkansen high-speed train is modeled after the beak of a kingfisher. The train has a streamlined nose designed to reduce noise, increase speeds by 10% and reduce electricity consumption by 15%.
Eiji Nakatsu, an engineer and avid birdwatcher, modeled the high-speed train on the way a kingfisher dives into the water, using its sharp beak to spear fish just below the surface.
Nakatsu modeled the train on the kingfisher’s beak to make it more streamlined and reduce drag. Although it is one of the fastest trains, the Shinkansen has reduced its environmental impact and noise through the tunnels.
How to emulate nature
Tips ‘n tricks
The Biomimicry Institute has developed a six-step ‘biology-to-design’ process to be inspired by nature. This could simply be observing an organism in the natural world and developing an application for it. Or it can be used when you want to solve a specific problem, asking how would nature solve it.
Step 1 – Define
Define the impact you want your design to have in the world as well as the constraints you’re dealing with. Relate your design to the specifics you want it to perform. Adopt a systems perspective, considering boundaries and leverage points to make your design as sustainable as possible.
Step 2 – Biologize
Determine the critical functions and context of your design. Pay particular attention to the specific solutions you’re looking to address, and don’t forget to ask nature’s advice – how would nature solve this problem?
Step 3 – Discover
Discover natural systems and organisms that have the same or similar functions to your design. Look for successful biological strategies that you can implement in your design. Spend time observing biological organisms and natural systems, discovering which ones suit your needs best.
Step 4 – Extract
Once you’ve discovered relevant strategies in nature, extract the specific mechanisms that make them useful to your problem context. Repurpose these strategies in non-biological ways to align them with what you want your design to achieve.
Step 5 – Emulate
Interconnect the patterns and relationships of your design. How do the parts interconnect to make a unified whole, helping you achieve your design goals? Your design concept should emulate nature’s strategies for optimal success. Go back to the drawing board and see if your design ticks the boxes from form to process to strategy.
Step 6 – Evaluate
Is your design aligned with the problem context, is it feasible and does it fit into the Earth’s limits? Use nature’s unifying patterns to evaluate your design; can it be improved upon in any way?
Note: when taking into account the Earth’s limits, consider the core characteristics that make up the Earth’s Operating System, which includes:
- Limited amounts of water
- Limited atmosphere
- Limited sunlight and energy that can be obtained from the sun
- The Earth’s cycles
- A state of dynamic equilibrium.
Human industrial systems extract from nature without regenerating natural systems. Our current linear ‘take, make, waste’ systems are out of sync with the natural world. If we want to restore the balance and create sustainable systems then why not look to nature for 3.8 billion years of inspiration and research and development?
If you’d like to learn more about how biomimicry fits into the context of sustainability, sign up for our FREE course, grounded in the principles of permaculture.