Research journal entry 9- BIO MIMICRY

One thing that I haven’t gone into yet in this journal, and have been meaning to, is bio-mimicry.

Bio-mimicry, fundamentally, is the study of natural organisms and adaptation of their systems to meet human needs, or ‘Innovation inspired by nature’ (Jenine Benyus- co-founder of the Bio-mimicry Guild)

Eco systems adapt themselves to changing conditions in order to survive. All over the world there are things that live and grow in even the most inhospitable climates. If they can do this, without the technology and resources humans have, and continue to live in a balanced existence, then there is obviously a lot we can learn from them.

One of the first architects that comes to mind when thinking about bio-mimicry is Michael Pawlyn, one of the men behind the Eden Project (among many other works) and his practice, Exploration Architecture.

Exploration Architecture aims to ‘draw inspiration from nature to devise solutions that produce radical increases in resource efficiency’.

The Cardboard to Caviar Project- an example of a close loop system at work

An example of their work, which I find very interesting, is the Eco-Rainforest, created for Ravenhead Renaissance. The basic principle of the building is the use of close-loop systems seen in most natural eco systems.

The project is set in a landfill site, a place where the linear nature of our resource consumption is most apparent. The idea was to try to convert the waste at the landfill site, into a positive use which is sustainable. Inspiration was taken from both the Cardboard to Caviar project- a closed loop project created after researching the natural recycling systems of waste, and the pineapple sheds at  Haligan Gardens, which use the decomposition of compost to heat the greenhouse.

With the use of passive solar gain, the building is a south facing construction with huge, rubble waste gabion walls, with  biodigesters integrated into them which also generate heat and moisture in the decomposition of the waste. This creates a hot, humid environment which, not only provides a place where tropical fruit bearing plants can grow, therefore reducing the carbon footprint of importing them, but turns a typically undesirable place to be into a botanical garden. It is also functional to the point that it can process the biodegradable waste of a city of a million people.

How can I use this in my building?

I think that the attitude of looking to create a close loop system rather than a linear one is inspirational, and, if thought about enough, could be applied in most buildings. The key is looking to how the products which would normally be considered waste products, can actually be reused.

In my previous entry on Earth Ships, I looked at how water can be obtained and recycled within the home, as well as the retention of heat that would otherwise be lost (through the Heat recovery ventilation system) which would help towards reducing the amount of energy needed to heat the home. The Biomass heating system is also a solution which, if obtained from sustainable sources, has a relatively small carbon footprint.

How can I use materials that would otherwise be wasted, in my building?

Installation using textile wastage to create a wall

Carpet tiles, which are not biodegradable could maybe be used instead of insulation, or even as interior walls themselves, as seen in The Carpet House, where they used worn carpet tiles in the construction of the building. Could waste textiles in general be used in the same way?

Thinking about the textile workshop itself, how can i use the wastage created by the building, within the building?

As the tools used are to be ones that do not need electricity, the emissions from them is not a problem.

basic representation of the water system implemented in earth ships

basic representation of the water system implemented in earth ships

Water wastage is a big problem in the textile industry, but implementation of the water recycling system seen in the Earth ships should be enough to combat the water wastage within the small scale of the workshop.


Researching the wastage of the textile industry, however, I have found that the UK textile industry as a whole wastes 1.5 trillion tonnes of solid waste in the form of discarded threads, fabrics and clothes. This could mean that, as part of the programme, the building could facilitate the recycling of this waste from the surrounding area.

Carding Paddles

For the recycling of scrap threads and yarn brought to the workshop, carding can be an answer- after sorting the yarn into colour groups, paddles can be used to brush the yarn between them until the fibres are aligned. This can then be spun into new yarn, using spinning wheels. This could be one of the activities the workshop implements within the building.

The re-use of fabric off cuts can also be implemented in classes to do with patch working.

One thing I do want to find out though, is whether this textile wastage can be used as an energy source, or implemented into the building in some way. This I will research within the next entry.


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