What in the world is biomimicry and does it belong in your house? According to the Biomimicry Institute, the term refers to taking nature’s best ideas and using them to solve human problems. It focuses not on what we can extract from nature but what we can learn from it, and it helps provide sustainability. When we explore how biomimicry is used in building materials, we can see that it lends itself to some green building tactics. Solar cells of photovoltaic systems mimic the way a leaf harvests energy. New paints, tiles and textiles used as building materials have mimicked the lotus leaf, which has a self-cleaning mechanism of removing dirt through gravity. The man-made materials modeled on this natural cleansing process reduce the need for detergents and maintenance.
We can also work with what nature gives us to maximize efficiency and sustainability in a home. For example, the positioning of a home on the property or the positioning of a home addition on a selected side of the house can provide energy efficiency. Windows and doors on the sunny side of the house help with heating. Smart design by a custom builder can also place materials for maximum efficiency, like sun landing on ceramic tile – it will ensure warmth. In the summer, an overhang where the sun hits will help to keep the house cooler simply by providing some much-needed shade. Adding strategically placed skylights throughout the home can also provide heat from the sun as well as more light, cutting the cost of electricity.
While researchers continue to study biomimicry, the rest of us can deal with the reality of nature and make it work for us.