Biomimicry In Sustainable Design

At SDL we love to engage with universities and get perspectives from those in higher education.  Madeleine Penkett is studying Sustainability and Environmental Management at the University of Leeds, and wrote this article after spending a week with us recently. We hope you enjoy it!

With Sustainable Direction Limited taking on some new and exciting sustainable building projects, I wanted to highlight how buildings can be made far more sustainable through design and promote the use of biomimicry principles. Biomimicry is the design and creation of structures and systems modelled on natural, biological processes. It is important to utilise solutions of the natural world, as these mechanisms have effectively evolved from a “3.8 billion-year research and development period” (Biomimicry Institute, 2016). Mimicking these systems can provide humanity with successful solutions to the current environmental issues we face today and into the future, such as resource scarcity and excessive waste.

An excellent and well known example of biomimicry in building design is the Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe. The building operates without a conventional air conditioning or heating system in place, yet maintains a regulated temperature throughout the year. This has been achieved through taking inspiration from African termite mounds which are naturally self-cooling. Dense materials store heat throughout the day and ventilation systems then remove heat at night. This building is extremely energy efficient and uses less than 10 percent of energy compared to conventional buildings of similar size in Zimbabwe. Similarly, the architect firm, Exploration Architects, are using biomimicry techniques to create exceptional sustainable building plans. More details regarding their extraordinary projects can be found on their website (

UNEP has calculated that buildings contribute approximately one third to global carbon emissions. It is more important than ever to implement sustainable practices throughout the entire lifecycle of buildings, from the use of recyclable materials to the incorporation of renewable energy. However, there is vast potential to use the very design of buildings to achieve significant energy and resource reductions, particularly when incorporated with biomimicry. This will seriously contribute to the global sustainability fight in the construction industry.

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