Can Biomimicry Be a Useful Tool for Design for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation?

  • Maibritt Pedersen Zari


As professionals of the built environment need to solve more urgent and difficult problems related to mitigating and adapting to climate change, it may be useful to examine examples of how the same problems have been solved by other living organisms or ecosystems. Looking to plants or animals that are highly adaptable or ones that survive in extreme climates or through climatic changes may provide insights into how buildings could or should function. Examining the qualities of ecosystems that enable them to be adaptable and resilient may also offer potential avenues to follow. This chapter examines whether biomimicry, where organisms or ecosystems are mimicked in human design, can be an effective means to either mitigate the causes of climate change the built environment is responsible for, or to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Different biomimetic approaches to design are discussed and categorised, and a series of case study examples illustrate the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. In light of the conclusions reached during the course of the research, it is argued that design that mimics ecosystems and utilises synergies between mitigation and adaptation strategies in relation to climate change could be a beneficial long-term biomimetic built environment response to climate change. The foundations of the theory to support this are also presented.


Climate Change Ecosystem Service Wind Turbine Climate Change Impact Climate Change Adaptation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research is based in part on earlier published paper: M. Pedersen Zari (2010), Biomimetic design for climate change adaptation and mitigation, Architectural Science Review, 53(2), pp. 172–183. It is revised, expanded and updated.


  1. Alcamo J, Ash N, Butler C, Baird Callicott J, Capistrano D, Carpenter S et al (2003) Ecosystems and Human Wellbeing. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen R (2010) Bulletproof feathers: how science uses nature’s secrets to design cutting edge technology. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersen SO, Zaelke D, Young O, Ahmadzai H, Anderson F, Atkinson M, Carson E, Carson RJ, Christensen S, Deventer JSV, Hanford S, Hoenig V, Miller A, Molina M, Price L, Ramanathan V, Tope H, Wilkinson J, Yamabe M (2011) Scientific synthesis of calera carbon sequestration and carbonaceous by-product applications. Consensus Findings of the Scientific Synthesis Team. Washington DC, Institute for Governance and Sustainable DevelopmentGoogle Scholar
  4. Anon (2005) Natural innovation: the growing discipline of biomimetics. Strateg Dir 21(10):35–37Google Scholar
  5. Aranda-Mena G, Sperling J, Wakefield R (2008) E-business adoption: case study on Melbourne city council ch2 building. In: Paper presented at the World sustainable building conference (SB08)Google Scholar
  6. Armstrong R (2009) Living buildings: plectic systems architecture. Technoetic Arts 7(2):79–94CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  7. Atkinson A (2007a) Cities after oil—1: ‘sustainable development’ and energy futures. City 11(2):201–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Atkinson WI (2007) Mouthwash for a smokestack. Globe and MailGoogle Scholar
  9. Baird G (2001) The architectural expression of environmental control systems. Spon Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baker J (2011) Prospectus of wave energy. Accessed May 2014
  11. Bellew P (2006) Going underground. Ingenia 28, SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  12. Bensaude-Vincent B, Arribart H, Bouligand Y, Sanchez C (2002) Chemists and the school of nature. New J Chem 26:1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Benyus J (1997) Biomimicry—innovation inspired by nature. Harper Collins Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. BioPower Systems (2011) BioPower systems press releases 8 August and 1 December 2011. Sydney, BioPower Systems. Accessed May 2014
  15. Bond S (2010) Lessons from the leaders of green designed commercial buildings in Australia. Pac Rim Property Res J 16(3):314–338Google Scholar
  16. Braungart M, Darlington A, Garland J, Lucey WP, Peck S et al (2008) Ecological design and engineering for urban environments. Ind Biotechnol 4(3):211–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Brinker J, Lu Y, Sellinger A (1999) Evaporation-induced self-assembly: nanostructures made easy. Adv Mater 11(7):579–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Calera (2012) Calera Website. Calera. Accessed May 2012
  19. Carley J (2012) Enzyme enabled carbon capture. Lowering the CCS Cost Barrier. In: Presentation at the 15th annual energy, utility, and environment conference (EUEC). Phoenix, ArizonaGoogle Scholar
  20. Chan M, Cheng BN (2006) Performance evaluation of domestic ionizer type air cleaners. Architectural Sci Rev 49(4):357(356)Google Scholar
  21. Collis GE, Campbell WM, Officer DL, Burrell AK (2005) The design and synthesis of porphyrin/oligiothiophene hybrid monomers. Org Biomol Chem 3:2075–2084CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. CO2 Solutions (2008) Innovation in carbon capture—2008 Annual Report. Accessed May 2014
  23. CO2 Solutions (2014) CO2 solutions successfully completes second oil sands project milestones. Press ReleaseGoogle Scholar
  24. Daily GC (1997) Nature’s services societal dependence on natural ecosystems. Island Press, Washington D. CGoogle Scholar
  25. Daily GC, Soderqvist TSA, Arrow K, Dasgupta P, Ehrlich PR et al (2000) The value of nature and the nature of value. Science 289:395–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Davidson S (2003) Light factories. ECOS 117:10–12Google Scholar
  27. de Groot R, Wilson MA, Boumans RMJ (2002) A typology for the classification, description and valuation of ecosystem function, goods and services. Ecol Econ 41:393–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. de Ia Rue du Can S, Price L (2008) Sectoral trends in global energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Policy 36(4):1386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fernandez JE (2004) Design diverse lifetimes for evolving buildings. In: Steemers K, Stean MA (eds) Environmental diversity in architecture. Routledge, New York, pp 65–82Google Scholar
  30. Finnigan T, Caska A (2006) Simulation of a biomimetic ocean wave energy device using blade-element theory. In: Paper presented at the sixteenth international offshore and polar engineering conference, San Francisco, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  31. Fister Gale S (2008) Carbon dioxide turns useful. PC Magazine, NovemberGoogle Scholar
  32. Fradette DS (2007) CO2 solution and climate change. BioInspired! 5(2)Google Scholar
  33. Garrod RP, Harris LG, Schofield WCE, McGettrick J, Ward LJ, Teare DOH et al (2007) Mimicking a Stenocara Beetle’s Back for Microcondensation Using Plasmachemical Patterned Superhydrophobic-Superhydrophilic Surfaces. Langmuir 23(2):689–693CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gebeshuber I, Gruber P, Drack M (2009) A gaze into the crystal ball: biomimetics in the year 2059. J Mech Eng Sci 223(12):2899–2918CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Geers C, Gros G (2000) Carbon dioxide transport and carbonic anhydrase in blood and muscle. Physiol Rev 80(2):681–715Google Scholar
  36. Gerngross T, Slater S (2003) Biopolymers and the environment. Science 299(5608):822–825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Goreau TJ (2010) Reef technology to rescue Venice. Nature 468(7322):377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Graham P (2003) Building Ecology—First Principles for a sustainable built environment. Blackwell Publishing, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  39. Greenemeier L (2007) Making plastic out of pollution. Scientific American, NovemberGoogle Scholar
  40. Grimm NB, Faeth SH, Golubiewski NE, Redman CL, Wu J, Bai X et al (2008) Global change and the ecology of cities. Science 319(5864):756–760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Gunderson LH, Holling CS (2002) Panarcy. Understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Island Press, Washington D.CGoogle Scholar
  42. Hamilton T (2007) Capturing carbon with enzymes. A new process turns the greenhouse gas into useful materials. MIT Technology Review, February 22Google Scholar
  43. Howden-Chapman P, Chapman R, Hales S, Britton E, Wilson N(2010) Climate change and human health: Impact and adaptation issues for New Zealand. In: Nottage RWDBJ, Jones K (eds) Climate change adaptation in New Zealand. Future scenarios and some sectorial perspectives. Wellington, New Zealand Climate Change CentreGoogle Scholar
  44. Hunt J (2004) How can cities mitigate and adapt to climate change? Building Res Inf 32(1):55–57Google Scholar
  45. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2007a) Climate change 2007: mitigation contribution of working group iii to the fourth assessment report of the IPCC. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2007b) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the IPCC. Cambridge, Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  47. Jacobsen NB (2006) Industrial symbiosis in Kalundborg, Denmark: a quantitative assessment of economic and environmental aspects. J Ind Ecol 10(1–2):239.Google Scholar
  48. Jevons, W (1865) The Coal Question. An Inquiry Concerning the Progess of the Nation and the Probable Exhaustion of our Coal Mines. London and Cambridge. Macmillan and CoGoogle Scholar
  49. Jones T (2008) Distributed energy systems. In: Newton P (ed) Transitions. Pathways towards sustainable urban development in Australia. Collingwood, CSIROGoogle Scholar
  50. Knight W (2001) Beetle fog-catcher inspires engineers. New Scientist 13:38Google Scholar
  51. Koelman O (2004) Biomimetic buildings: understanding and applying the lessons of nature. BioInspire 21Google Scholar
  52. Koeppel S, Ürge-Vorsatz D (2007) Assessment of policy instruments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Report for the UNEP SBCI (United Nations Environmental Programme Sustainable Buildings and Construction Initiative), CentralGoogle Scholar
  53. Korhonen J (2001) Four ecosystem principles for an industrial ecosystem. J Clean Prod 9:253–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lovins LH, Cohen B (2011) Climate Capitalism. Capitalism in the age of climate change, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  55. Mathews F (2011) Towards a deeper philosophy of biomimicry. Organ Environ 24(4):364–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mattheck C (1998) Design in nature. Learning From Trees, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Mattheck C, Baumgartner A, Gräbe D, Teschner M (1996) Design in nature. Struct Eng Int 6(3):177–180Google Scholar
  58. McDonough W, Braungart M (2002) Cradle to cradle—Remaking the way we make things. North Point Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  59. McKeag T (2010) Bringing biomimicry to cement, offices and daily life Accessed May 2014
  60. McKeough T (2009) Novomer’s plastic reduces greenhouse gas-but will it biodegrade? Fast Company NewsletterGoogle Scholar
  61. Mitchell RB (2012) Technology is not enough. J Environ Develop 21(1):24–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Monteiro PJM, Clodic L, Battocchio F, Kanitpanyacharoen W, Chae SR, Ha J et al (2013) Incorporating carbon sequestration materials in civil infrastructure: A micro and nano-structural analysis. Cement Concr Compos 40:14–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Moore T, Moore A, Gust D, Hambourger M, Brune A (2004) Artificial photosynthesis and hydrogen production: strategies for sustainable energy production. In: Paper presented at the 13th international congress on photosynthesis, Montreal, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  64. Nidumolu R, Prahalad CK, Rangaswami MR (2009) Why sustainability is now the key driver of innovation. Harvard Business ReviewGoogle Scholar
  65. Novomer (2010) Novomer. Catalyzing green chemistry novomer. Accessed March 2012
  66. Novomer (2013) Novomer catalytic process using waste co2 and shale gas targets $20 Billion market and up to 110 % carbon footprint reduction content. Press ReleaseGoogle Scholar
  67. O’Connell M, Hargreaves R (2004) Climate change adaptation study Report No. 130, BranzGoogle Scholar
  68. Paevere P, Brown S (2008) Indoor environment quality and occupant productivity in the ch2 building: post-occupancy summary. CSIRO, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  69. Parker AR, Lawrence CR (2001) Water capture by a desert beetle. Nature 414(6859):33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Patel-Predd P (2007) Carbon-dioxide plastic gets funding. A startup is moving ahead with an efficient method to make biodegradable plastic. Technol Rev (November 14)Google Scholar
  71. Pawlyn M (2011) Biomimicry in architecture. RIBA Publishing, LondonGoogle Scholar
  72. Pedersen Zari M (2007) Biomimetic approaches to architectural design for increased sustainability. In: Paper presented at the sustainable building conference, AucklandGoogle Scholar
  73. Pedersen Zari M (2010) Biomimetic design for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Archit Sci Rev (ASR) 53(2):172−183Google Scholar
  74. Pedersen Zari M (2012) Ecosystem services analysis for the design of regenerative urban built environments. Victoria University of Wellington, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
  75. Pedersen Zari M, Storey JB (2007) An ecosystem based biomimetic theory for a regenerative built environment In: Paper presented at the Lisbon sustainable building conference 07, Lisbon, PortugalGoogle Scholar
  76. Pronk A, Blacha M, Bots A (2008) Nature’s experiences for building technology. In: 6th international seminar of the international association for shell and spatial structures (IASS) working group 15 ‘structural morphology’, AcapulcoGoogle Scholar
  77. Purvis A, Hector A (2000) Getting the measure of biodiversity. Nature 405(6783):212–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Rees W (1999) The built environment and the ecosphere: a global perspective. Build Res Inform 27(4/5):206–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Reisinger A, Wratt D, Allan S, Larsen H (2011) The role of local government in adapting to climate change: lessons from New Zealand. In: Ford JD, Berrang-Ford L (eds) Climate change adaptation in developed nations, vol 42, pp 303–319. Springer NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  80. Schiermeier Q (2006) Putting the carbon back. The hundred billion tonne challenge. Nature, 442:620–623Google Scholar
  81. Sellinger A, Weiss P, Nguyen A, Lu Y, Assink R, Gong W and Brinker C (1998) Continuous self-assembly of organic-inorganic nanocomposite coatings that mimic nacre. Nature 394(6690):256−260Google Scholar
  82. Smith F (1997) Eastgate, Harare, Zimbabwe. Arup J 32(1):3–8Google Scholar
  83. Steemers K (2003) Towards a research agenda for adapting to climate change. Build Res Inform 31(3/4):291–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Stern N (2006) Stern review: the economics of climate change. Independent Review for the Government of the United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  85. Tan S (2007) CH2 6 stars, but how does it work? Architecture Australia, 96(1):101–104Google Scholar
  86. Trivedi BP (2001) Beetle’s shell offers clues to harvesting water in the desert. National Geographic TodayGoogle Scholar
  87. Turner G (2008) A comparison of the limits to growth with 30 years of reality. CSIRO, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  88. Turner, J and Soar R (2008) Beyond Biomimicry: What Termites can tell us about Realizing the Living Building. First International Conference on Industrialized, Intelligent Construction (I3CON). Loughborough UniversityGoogle Scholar
  89. Vanderley MJ (2003) On the sustainability of concrete. UNEP J Ind EnvironGoogle Scholar
  90. Vincent J (2010) New materials and natural design. In: Allen R (ed) Bulletproof feathers. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  91. Vincent JFV, Bogatyreva OA, Bogatyrev NR, Bowyer A, Pahl A-K (2006) Biomimetics—its practice and theory. J R Soc Interface 3(9):471–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Vogel S (1998) Cat’s paws and catapults. Norton and Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  93. Wahl DC, Baxter S (2008) The designer’s role in facilitating sustainable solutions. Design Issues 24(2):72–83Google Scholar
  94. Walther G-R, Post E, Convey P, Menzel A, Parmesan C, Beebee TJC et al (2002) Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416(6879):389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Wilby RL (2007) A review of climate change impacts on the built environment. Built Environ 33(1):31–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Zhao J, Xu Y (2010) Ecological wisdom inspired from termite mounds. Analysis on biomimetric design of Zimbabwe Eastgate Center. Build Sci 2Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ArchitectureVictoria UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations