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Biomimetic Architecture

What is Biomimicry?

Biomimicry & Darwinism

Biomimicry can, and often does, benefit from Darwinism. Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution stating that all species develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. The inherent competition of "survival of the fittest" provides better suited and more successful examples with which humans can use for innovation.

By thinking through a “biomimetic lens” we can advance our technologies in ways that are beneficial rather than damaging to our planet.

Biomimcry in Architecture

The Eastgate Centre

The Eastgate Centre took its design inspiration from the native self-cooling termite mounds in order to reduce operating costs for cooling the building. Termites work tirelessly to keep the mounds within a constant range of temperatures throughout the day. They do this by creating and closing holes within the mounds surface depending on varying climate changes. Another technique is building up the mounds wall thickness to serve as a thermal mass wall.

The architects designed a permeable building envelope with thick thermal walls as well as using deep overhangs to prevent from direct sun and heat gain. The building is also oriented so that no sun touches the windows on the North façade during the summer months. Each floor structure draws in a natural breeze to the center “courtyard” and pulls hot air up, similar to the “stack effect” of a chimney. The shopping complex is completely open-air and uses no mechanical cooling systems aside from fans at the ground level to begin the circulation process.

The Gherkin

The Gherkin took much of its design inspiration from the venus flower basket sponge. This sponge is made entirely of silica, the same material as glass and is sometimes coined “the glass sponge”. The sponge takes silicic acid from seawater and converts it into silica, then creates an elaborate skeleton out of glass fibers that allow it to withstand underwater currents. The sponges circular design and truss-like skeleton allows it to evenly distribute the stresses along its structure.

The architects used the sponge as a conceptual starting point and modified the design in order to create a more passive and eco-friendly building. The circular design was used in order to minimize wind loads and uplift while also creating an interesting aesthetic. The spiraling shape can also be seen within the sponge and was exploited by using glass of 2 different tints. In the areas using the darker tinted glass, voids in each floor structure are used in order to draw warm air up. Also in these areas, the use of operable triangular shaped windows helps promote constant air circulation.

Within the wall assembly, there is a double curtain wall system. The exteriormost glass is what receives direct sunlight. Directly behind that layer is a large air gap which serves to buffer and diffuse the heat before reaching the internal curtain wall system. In order to promote exhausting of this hot air, a louvered venting system draws air upwards and is only stopped every 6 floors due to the need for fire-stops. The hot air is circulated outwards at the upper most portion of the louvered system. This double curtain wall system ties into a secondary atrium system which involves voids in each floor structure which promote the “stack effect”.

6 triangular voids are present on each floor which correspond to the rotation of the dark glass tinting. These voids create upwards draft and tie into the double curtain wall system. This pin-wheeling effect creates small break-out spaces that overlook the floors below. This breathable building reduces its energy consumption by 50%.

If you ever find yourself lost on your design journey, look to nature and you never know what sort of creative solutions you may find.


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