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Climate change is already occurring globally and will continue to in the future, resulting in significant negative impacts on society and ecosystems in general. Given that climate change is largely caused by humans, and in part by the built environments they create, a logical response may be to consider how buildings can address the drivers of climate change while simultaneously adapting to it. The built environment must move towards being able to sequester carbon and transform greenhouse gases in order to mitigate the causes of climate change where possible. This is alongside more traditional responses to climate change such as improving energy efficiency, reducing the use of fossil fuels to build and maintain urban environments, and designing cities to become more adaptable to future change. This chapter explores how the rapidly expanding field of biomimicry, where living organisms and traits of ecosystems are emulated in design, could make contributions to the evolution of built environments that are able to both sequester and transform carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by careful selection and use of specific materials. A number of examples of different biomimetic materials that are able to improve energy efficiencies, generate renewable energy, or sequester carbon are discussed, along with an ecosystem biomimetic method for materials selection based on understanding and mimicking ecosystem services (i.e., what ecosystems actually do).
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Biomimetic Materials for Addressing
Climate Change
Maibritt Pedersen Zari
Introduction ....................................................................................... 2
Climate Change and Building Materials ..................................................... 2
Biomimicry .................................................................................... 3
Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Built Environment Using Biomimicry ....... 3
Biomimetic Materials for Energy Efciency .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... . .. .. .. .. .. .. ... . .. .. . 5
Biomimetic Energy Generation for Mitigating the Causes of Climate Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Biomimetic Sequestering and Storing of Carbon ............................................ 9
Biomimetic Strategies for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Built Environment ........... 14
Responding to Direct Impacts of Climate Change .. . .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. ... . 16
Responding to Indirect Impacts of Climate Change . . . ...................................... 18
Conclusions and Further Outlook .. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 19
References .. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... . .. .. .. . 20
Climate change is already occurring globally and will continue to in the future,
resulting in signicant negative impacts on society and ecosystems in general.
Given that climate change is largely caused by humans, and in part by the built
environments they create, a logical response may be to consider how buildings
can address the drivers of climate change while simultaneously adapting to it. The
built environment must move towards being able to sequester carbon and trans-
form greenhouse gases in order to mitigate the causes of climate change where
possible. This is alongside more traditional responses to climate change such as
improving energy efciency, reducing the use of fossil fuels to build and maintain
urban environments, and designing cities to become more adaptable to future
M. Pedersen Zari (*)
School of Architecture, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
#Springer International Publishing AG 2018
L. M. T. Martínez et al. (eds.), Handbook of Ecomaterials,
This chapter explores how the rapidly expanding eld of biomimicry, where
living organisms and traits of ecosystems are emulated in design, could make
contributions to the evolution of built environments that are able to both sequester
and transform carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by careful selection and
use of specic materials. A number of examples of different biomimetic materials
that are able to improve energy efciencies, generate renewable energy, or
sequester carbon are discussed, along with an ecosystem biomimetic method
for materials selection based on understanding and mimicking ecosystem services
(i.e., what ecosystems actually do).
Climate Change and Building Materials
The narrow band of climatic conditions that support the ongoing survival of the
human species is changing rapidly [1]. This affects not only people but most of the
other species that inhabit the planet and the ecosystems they form [2]. The causes of
climate change are numerous, complex, and interconnected but stem largely from the
way humans live in, understand, and relate to the world around them. Addressing
such a large problem, in terms of both scale and scope, needs many solutions to t
the vast variety of political, economic, cultural, climatic, and ecological conditions
within which humans dwell. Built environment strategies to effect change in human
behavior could be one such set of solutions.
It is well known that the built environment has a large negative effect on the
climate. The built environment is responsible for approximately a third of global
anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, leading to climate change. Despite
international climate change protocols and initiatives, global GHG emissions are still
increasing. Building sector carbon emissions including those from energy generation
used to power buildings have increased annually by 2% since 1970, for example,
while emissions from commercial buildings have increased by 3% annually since
2002 [3]. More than a third of all of the materials that are harvested, dug up, mined,
and processed on the planet end up in built environments, while concurrently
approximately a third of all of the waste that is buried, burnt, and dumped comes
from construction and demolition activities [4]. This means that the materials that are
specied, purchased, used, and discarded in building construction and retrot really
matter in terms of climate change and general ecological health. It is vital that
materials are selected based on understanding their ecological and climate impacts
over their entire life cycles. Careful selection of materials is also an opportunity to
shift markets and perhaps to move built environment to a more sustainable paradigm.
Established responses to climate change in the built environment broadly fall into
two categories. The rst is mitigating the causes of climate change by reducing GHG
emissions. The second is adapting the existing and future built environment to
predicted climate change impacts. Changes in climate that will affect the built
environment are numerous and, although difcult to quantify, have been explored
2 M. Pedersen Zari
by several researchers [see 57]. The impacts that climate change will have on the
built environment are both direct and indirect. Direct impacts will affect the actual
physical fabric of the built environment. Indirect impacts incorporate ecological,
economic, and social changes that will also affect the built environment [8]. Impacts
will vary greatly depending on the location, quality, and density of the existing built
environment. This means that responses, including selection of materials, must also
be site specic.
By looking to the living world, there may be organisms or whole ecosystems that can
be mimicked to create and maintain a resilient and adaptable built environment and
improve its capacity for regeneration of the health of ecosystems and climate [9].
Biomimicry is the mimicry of an organism, organism behavior, or an entire ecosys-
tem, in terms of its form (what it looks like), material (what it is made of),
construction method (how it is made), process strategies (how it works), or function
(what it does) [8]. See Table 1. Mimicking living organisms or ecosystems involves a
process of translation into suitable solutions for the human context. This process of
translation often results in designs that are not immediately aesthetically similar to
the organism or ecosystem that inspired them but utilize the same functional
concepts. Contemporary examples of biomimetic architecture and materials are
found in [8,10,11], and a selection of historic examples are detailed in [1214].
Two options for materials that respond to the challenge of climate change and that
are inspired by an understanding of the living world are investigated in this chapter.
The rst is integrating biomimetic materials or technologies that are able to mitigate
GHG emissions into or onto buildings. The second is using biomimicry to adapt to
the direct impacts of climate change on the built environment. A series of examples
of biomimetic materials and technologies illustrate the benets and drawbacks of
each approach and potential for effectiveness over the short, medium, and long
Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Built Environment
Using Biomimicry
Common mitigation strategies in a built environment context include:
1. Increasing the density and limiting sprawl of urban form to reduce building
energy use and emissions from vehicles
2. Creating or maintaining urban forest and green space
3. Design for energy conservation and efciency
4. Generation of renewable energy to supplant the use of fossil fuels
5. Carbon storage or sequestration
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 3
Table 1 Levels and dimensions of biomimicry: a framework for understanding biomimetic design
Level and dimension Example: A building that mimics termites
Organism level
(Mimicry of a specic
Form The building looks like a termite
Material The building is made from the same material
as a termite; a material that mimics termite
Construction The building is made in the same way as a
termite; it goes through various growth
cycles, for example
Process The building works in the same way as an
individual termite; it produces hydrogen
efciently through meta-genomics, for
Function The building functions like a termite in a
larger context; it recycles cellulose waste and
creates soil, for example
Behavior level
(Mimicry of how an organism
behaves or relates to its larger
Form The building looks like it was made by a
termite; a replica of a termite mound, for
Material The building is made from the same
materials that a termite builds with; using
digested ne soil as the primary material, for
Construction The building is made in the same way that a
termite would build; piling earth in certain
places at certain times, for example
Process The building works in the same way as a
termite mound would, by careful orientation,
shape, materials selection, and natural
ventilation, or it mimics how termites work
Function The building functions in the same way that
it would if made by termites; internal
conditions are regulated to be optimal and
thermally stable. It may also function in the
same way that a termite mound does in a
larger context
Ecosystem level
(Mimicry of an ecosystem)
Form The building looks like an ecosystem (a
termite would live in)
Material The building is made from the same kind of
materials that (a termite) ecosystem is made
of; it uses naturally occurring common
compounds and water as the primary
chemical medium, for example
Construction The building is assembled in the same way
as a (termite) ecosystem; principles of
succession and increasing complexity over
time are used, for example
4 M. Pedersen Zari
The rst two strategies relate to urban planning and represent long-term climate
change adaptation strategies. This section, therefore, will deal with the latter three
and most common categories that relate to materials. The rst set of biomimetic
examples examined are those that mimic the energy efciency or effectiveness of
living organisms and systems. The impetus is that by being more energy efcient,
less fossil fuel is burnt and therefore fewer GHGs are emitted. The second approach
is to devise new ways of producing energy to reduce human dependence on fossil
fuels and their associated GHGs. A third biomimetic approach to mitigating GHG
emissions is investigating organisms or ecosystems for examples of processes within
them that can sequester and store carbon or other GHGs.
Biomimetic Materials for Energy Efficiency
There are numerous examples of living organisms and ecosystems that are highly
energy effective and that yield an understanding of how humans could carry out their
activities without a dependence on fossil fuels. For example, effort to reduce energy
used for air conditioners and other cooling equipment has been made by researchers
at the University of Rochester by emulating the super-wicking properties of certain
plant leaves. The aim is to increase the evaporation efciency and therefore decrease
energy consumption by up to 500% [15]. Another example is the IRLens that mimics
how craysh and lobster eyes focus light (Fig. 1). A heating system has been
developed that directs infrared light, thereby only heating smaller required areas
rather than entire room volumes. The spot heating system is reported as being twice
as energy efcient as conventional technologies [16].
Finally, several biomimetic materials are based on using micro- and nano-tex-
tured surfaces that emulate certain kinds of superhydrophobic (water repelling) or
superhydrophilic plants [17]. Lotusan paint manufactured by Sto AG, which enables
buildings to be self-cleaning, is perhaps one of the most well-known examples of
commercialized biomimicry. By studying the nanostructure of the lotus leaf (Fig. 1),
scientists observed that due to its rough texture, water is forced to bead, which draws
Table 1 (continued)
Level and dimension Example: A building that mimics termites
Process The building works in the same way as a
(termite) ecosystem; it captures and converts
energy from the sun, stores water, etc.
Function The building is able to function in the same
way that a (termite) ecosystem would and
forms part of a complex system by utilizing
the relationships between processes; it is able
to participate in the hydrological, carbon,
nitrogen cycles, etc. in a similar way to an
ecosystem, for example
Adapted from [8]
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 5
Fig. 1 Lobster eyes (top) and the lotus effect (bottom) (Eyestalk of a lobster. Captured in Batticaloa,
Sri Lanka (top): photographer AntanO. CC-BY-SA 4.0.Source:
wiki/File:Eyestalk_of_Lobster.jpg. CG of Lotus effect (bottom): photographer W. Thielicke. CC-
BY-SA 4.0. Source:
6 M. Pedersen Zari
dirt from the leaf as the droplets roll off. This lotus effecthas been utilized in other
products and materials such as tiles, plastic food containers, spray on surfaces, and
stainless steel bathroom xtures. It can be argued that reducing the need to wash
buildings or infrastructure may save water, reduce the need to use toxic cleaning
chemicals, and could protect building facades from damage caused by the buildup of
surface pollutants, and therefore be more energy efcient [18]. Other properties of
these kinds of materials that mimic textures of biological surfaces include energy-
efcient drag reduction during moving in water and air [19] and low-energy capillary
liquid transport [17].
Some other well-known examples of biomimicry also are in the category of
improving energy efciencies, such as DaimlerChryslers Bionic car (2005) [20].
The large volume, small wheel base concept Bionic car was based on the hydrody-
namic and strength characteristics of the boxsh (Fig. 2). This resulted in the design
of a more fuel-efcient car with the low drag coefcient of 0.19 and panels with 40%
more rigidity than a standard car [21]. The chassis and structure of the car were also
biomimetic, having been designed using a computer modeling method designed by
Claus Mattheck that mimics how trees are able to grow in a way that minimizes
stress concentrations [10,22]. The resulting car structure looks almost skeletal. Total
car weight was reduced by at least a third, because material was allocated only to the
places where it is most needed [12]. Another software named OptiStruct, developed
in Michigan by Altair, is also used to reduce materials and structure needed in
design. In this case, the algorithm mimics how bone strengthens in response to
stress, rather than tree growth. It has been used in the design of cars and aircraft.
Reductions of 20% in weight in an Airbus have been noted, for example [15].
Compared to a standard non-biomimetic car, the Bionic car is efcient in terms of
fuel use because the body is more aerodynamic due to the mimicking of the boxsh. It
is also more materially efcient through mimicking tree growth patterns to identify the
minimum amountof material needed in the structure of the car. The car itself, however,
is not a new approach to transport. Instead, small improvements have been made to
existing technology without a reexamination of the idea of the car as an answer to
personal transport. Improving general energy efciency is an important part of
addressing climate change but should be regarded as an intermediate step. Improving
efciencies helps to reduce the intensity of GHG emissions but does not challenge
assumptions about how and why materials and technologies are made and used. Nor
does it address the underlying causes of climate change such as dependence on fossil
fuels. Some researchers actually detail increased rather than decreased energy use as a
result of energy efciency initiatives. This is referred to as Jevons paradox[23].
Simplistically, as efciencies increase, the price of a technology tends to go down,
which often results in a net increase in consumption as more people use it. Improving
energy efciencies of materials themselves or improving energy efciencies of build-
ings of infrastructure through the use of certain materials does allow positive incre-
mental changes to be made to existing technologies and buildings however. Energy
efciency could, therefore, be important in the short term for the built environment
becoming better able to address climate change. Biomimetic materials and concepts
have much to offer in this regard.
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 7
Fig. 2 DaimlerChryslers 2005 prototype Bionic car (top) and the boxsh (bottom) (Mercedes-
Benz bionic car at Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (top): photographer R. Somma. CC-BY-
SA-2.0. Source: Yellow
boxsh, juvenile (bottom): photographer Zsispeo. CC-BY-SA-2.0. Source:
8 M. Pedersen Zari
Biomimetic Energy Generation for Mitigating the Causes of Climate
Several biomimetic materials, technologies, or systems aim to replace the use of
fossil fuels as the primary human energy source. Looking to the living world for
inspiration is appropriate in this regard, because almost all organisms source energy
from renewable sources, which predominantly is directly or indirectly from current
sunlight. Examples of biomimetic materials systems for the development of alterna-
tive energy sources include mimicking the process of photosynthesis in solar cell
technologies or for other applications [15,2426] and in the development of new
kinds of energy-harvesting materials [27,28], solar panel advances based on butter-
y wings or moth eyes [15,29], radically more effective electrodes for solar energy
storage based on ferns [30] and batteries that use an understanding of frog and
Torpedo ray nerves [15], production of biofuels using photosynthetic foams inspired
by the foam nests of the tungara frog [31] or red panda digestive enzymes [15], wind
turbine technologies based on the movements of schools of sh to enable turbines to
be closer together and therefore more efcient [32] (Fig. 3), more effective blade
shapes for wind turbines based on humpback whale ns [33], wind turbines based on
energy-efcient hummingbird movements [34] (Fig. 3), and the development of
ocean energy technologies that mimic how sea kelp or certain sh move efciently in
water [35].
Finding methods and associated materials to replace fossil fuels with renewable
energy sources is a long-term solution to climate change. This is problematic,
however, given the possible short time available to nd alternatives to the use of
fossil fuel before more irreversible damage is done to the climate [36].
Biomimetic Sequestering and Storing of Carbon
The anthropogenic emission of GHGs is the primary cause of climate change [1].
There are several organisms and processes in nature that are able to store, sequester,
or recycle carbon and other GHGs. Understanding how they do this and then
emulating this have been used in the development of various materials and technol-
ogies to remove excess CO
and other GHGs already in the atmosphere. In Quebec,
for example, CO
Solutions is developing carbon sequestration technology which
replicates certain chemical processes that occur in the bodies of mammals [37]. The
technology mimics the enzyme carbonic anhydrase which is able to convert CO
bicarbonates [38]. This enzyme enables mammals to manage CO
during respiration.
The process works at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperatures [39]. It
generates bicarbonate which can be used to neutralize certain industrial wastes and
store CO
or can be transformed into carbonate compounds such as limestone to be
used in processes in cement works or paper mills. The technology can be retrotted
onto existing facilities, such as power plants, cement works, aluminum smelters, and
oil sand operations, or integrated into new ones [40]. The process is more energy
efcient, and therefore cost-effective, than conventional carbon capture technology
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 9
Fig. 3 School of sh (top) and hummingbird (bottom) (School of ame goatsh, Red Sea, Egypt
(top): photographer D. Keats. CC-BY-SA 2.0. Source:
6166012877. Violet-tailed Sylph (bottom): photographer A. Morffew. CC-BY-SA 2.0. Source:
10 M. Pedersen Zari
that uses monoethanolamine, with energy savings in the order of 30% [41]. Initial
testing on an Alcoa aluminum smelter in Deschambault, Quebec, indicated removal
of 80% of CO
that would otherwise have been emitted into the atmosphere [42].
The CO
emissions are neutralized with waste bauxite residue to create materials that
have secondary uses [41]. In 2014, the largest-ever scale test of a biocatalytic
process for carbon capturewas completed by CO
Solutions in relation to its
Alberta oil sand project. Results showed an improvement of 33% in energy con-
sumption compared to the existing carbon capture technologies for the capture of
90% of the CO
emissions [43].
A similar example of biomimetic carbon sequestration technology can be found
in research investigating how coral creates its hard aragonite exoskeleton of calcium
and magnesium carbonate and bicarbonate minerals by using minerals, seawater, and
(Fig. 4). Based on the discovery of how calcite and aragonite (polymorphs of
calcium carbonate) are nucleated by the marine organisms and subsequent replica-
tion of that in a laboratory, in 2007, the company Calera was formed. Calera is
developing technology that sequesters carbon from industrial ue gas emissions;
adds it to brine wastewater, seawater, manufactured alkaline solutions, or brines
extracted from geological deposits; and from this process converts the gas rst to
carbonic acid and then to stable solid minerals. These materials are used to produce
high reactive cements that do not require the calcining of the carbonate typically
required to produce conventional Portland cement. Although somewhat controver-
sial, Calera claims that its cement process results in fewer CO
emissions than
conventional cement production [44].
The technology has been applied at a demonstration level to Californias Moss
Landing gas-red electricity power plant in the Monterey Bay area. Here seawater is
used, along with 92% of the plants 3.5 million tons of annual CO
emissions and
some of the waste heat and y ash from the ue to create cement [45]. Further
analysis of the Calera process conrms that up to 90% of carbon emissions could be
captured if the system was applied to other suitable plants [46]. Every ton of cement
made in the process sequesters between 0.5 and 1.0 tons of CO
. This supposedly
eliminates additional carbon emissions caused by producing and transporting cement
[45,46]. Trace metals in emissions are also removed during the process, and mercury
is captured and converted into a non-leachable form. Testing began in 2011 on the
suitability of the products and materials derived from the Calera process for building
and construction processes. Their cement-based products have been used in several
demonstration projects. Nonstructural applications (foot paths, tiles, etc.) are likely
to be end uses for the cement [47]. Another company, Blue Planet, produces
synthetic carbonate rocks to replace mined natural limestone, which is the main
component of concrete. These rocks are produced by using captured CO
from ue
gas as a raw material in a low-energy process that again mimics bio-mineralization
seen in nature. Available products include aggregates, concrete mixes, and roong
products that claim to lead to carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative constructions
depending on how they are used. If scaled, estimates are that 10 billion tons of CO
could be sequestered by the technology over a decade [15].
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 11
Fig. 4 Nacre (top), coral (bottom) (Haliotis scalaris (staircase abalone), Western Australia (top):
photographer: J. St. John. CC-BY-SA 2.0. Source:
24166237506. Coral (bottom): photographer: anon. CC0 Public Domain. Source: https://pxhere.
12 M. Pedersen Zari
Anal example of efforts to increase the sequestration of carbon using
biomimicry is illustrated by research investigating how the abalone is able to grow
a crack-resistant shell (nacre) (Fig. 4) approximately 200% harder than human
ceramics, and with self-healing properties, using only seawater and a series of
proteins [17,48]. This could lead to lightweight, extremely strong, optically clear
building materials or to alternatives to concrete [49,50]. This is signicant because
cement production accounts for approximately 5% of the worlds anthropogenic
emissions [51]. This process of bio-mineralization stores carbon much like the
growing of forests that locks carbon into the structure of the trees and soil until
released. The concept of a material able to grow through self-assembly over a base
structure, with the simple additive of seawater, by activating proteins on the structure
imitated from the abalone has been investigated, but results are not available [52].
Biomimetic bio-mineralization is also discussed by Vincent [53] and Armstrong
[54], and a plant growth-inspired form of utilizing carbon from ambient air through
the use of bionanorobots to build structures is proposed by Rebolj et al. [55].
The utilization of detritus, or waste, is an important part of the process of cycling
nutrients in ecosystems and is a fundamental part of maintaining the health of an
ecosystem [56]. In using biomimicry to address excess GHGs in the atmosphere, it
may be possible to use these as resources rather than seeing them as sources of
pollution. The obvious example from biology is how plants utilize CO
during the
photosynthesis process, converting it into the products needed for plant growth and
development, such as cellulose. For plants, CO
in the correct quantities is a
necessary resource, rather than a pollutant. A company called Novomer is mimick-
ing this aspect of carbon sequestration in plants, by using CO
, mostly captured as
factory emissions, as a resource for new carbon-based polymers [57]. The catalyst
that is needed for the process works at ambient temperature and low pressure
(150 psi), and the process is therefore less energy intensive and expensive than
conventional bio-plastics production [58]. The use of CO
and carbon monoxide
(CO) as feedstocks, rather than corn or starch as in bio-plastics, means that the
production of the carbon-based plastic does not compete with food production and
both captures and stores carbon while reducing demand on oil reserves (if the result
is less production of conventional oil-based plastics). The stored carbon in the
carbon-based plastic is released upon decomposition, although depending on the
exact nature of the feedstock and catalyst, the biodegradability of the carbon-based
polymers can be varied to enable longer-term carbon storage [59]. Novomer sug-
gests that materials and chemicals with a potentially negative carbon footprint can be
made, including plastics which actually sequester CO
over the product life cycle
while being 30% cheaper than conventional plastics to manufacture. Novomer
polypropylene carbonate (PPC) polyol plastics are 4050% transformed CO
weight and can be used as coatings for building materials or foam insulation. Some
products are being used by adhesive and polyurethane manufacturers [15]. Novomer
chemicals may also be useful in the production of paint, coatings, and textiles with
complete sequestration of waste gases [60].
Developments are also being made in the use of methane as a feedstock for the
production of plastics (PHA). Mango Materials in California, for example, has
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 13
devised a process for capturing the potent GHG from emissions from water resource
recovery facilities (WRRFs), landlls, or agricultural or industrial facilities. When
combined with methanotrophic bacteria, a biodegradable plastic material can be
produced. The process consumes up to 4 tons of methane for every ton of plastic
produced. A single typical North American WRRF processing 57 million liters of
waste a day might produce 3 million tons of methane annually. If coupled with a
Mango Materials production, plant up to 1100 tons of plastic could be produced
sequestering 1700 to 3500 tons of methane (equivalent to up to 1,200,000 tons of
). This is signicant in terms of climate change mitigation if scalable [61].
An issue with this approach to employing biomimicry to address climate change
impacts is that sequestering carbon or other GHGs does not examine or solve the
problem of excessive burning of fossil fuels in the rst place. Nor does it take into
account depletion of oil reserves. Rather, sequestration is another interim step in the
development of a more sustainable human society and economy, possibly creating
time to develop materials and technologies which do not just pollute less, but instead
do not pollute at all, or ultimately work to remediate pollution. The benet of using
biomimicry as a means to capture or sequester GHGs is that such techniques may
help to retrot and adapt existing building infrastructure, while addressing GHG
emissions in the short to medium term.
Several of the examples of a biomimetic approach to carbon sequestration or
storage discussed here reveal that useful secondary products and materials can be
made from wastes without toxic by-products and without using high amounts of
energy. There may also be important restorative capacity in lowering the amount of
atmospheric carbon by using CO
and other GHGs as feedstocks for new materials.
The built environment uses approximately 40% of the materials consumed by the
global economy. Therefore, building materials that store carbon long term, or that are
made from CO
or other GHGs, that do not release these upon biodegradation, and
that are durable and safe could make a contribution to mitigating climate change or
even lowering levels of atmospheric carbon over the long term, if combined with
other initiatives. It should be remembered that most of the built environment that will
exist for the next 50 to 90 years (in developed countries) has already been built. This
means there is a limit to how much of an impact new materials can make within a
timeframe that would allow the built environment to address GHG emissions before
climate change makes the building or rebuilding of cities difcult.
Biomimetic Strategies for Adaptation to Climate Change in the
Built Environment
Climate change is not an event that will take place in a distant future. Shifts (both
temporal and spatial) in weather patterns and temperatures, attributed to climate
change in many places in the world, have already produced changes in precipitation
patterns, greater cyclone intensities, more frequent wildres, and more extreme rain
or snow storms [62]. Changes in phenology (timing) and distribution patterns have
also been observed in a wide range of species types and in whole terrestrial,
14 M. Pedersen Zari
freshwater, and marine ecosystems on all continents and in all oceans [63]. Even if
all GHG emissions were immediately halted, climate change caused by past emis-
sions would still be experienced due to the slow response of the planets atmosphere,
oceans, and other carbon sinks [64].
Because the urban built environment is now the principal habitat of humans [65],
it is important that built environment professionals not only work toward mitigating
the causes of climate change but also devise strategies to adapt to the inevitable
impacts within an urban context. Signicant adaptation measures are required to
maintain safe, healthy, productive, and comfortable living conditions for humans
[66,67]. Adaptation strategies aim to make changes to the built environment and its
social and economic context, so that the negative effects of climate change are
avoided or minimized. Strategies that have been employed or suggested for climate
change adaption in the built environment include:
Provision of open land and urban green space/roof tops/vegetation for stormwater
management and provision of cooling microclimates [68]
Provision of wild life corridors (to allow for the changing ranges of species and
thus the preservation of urban biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides)
Protection or creation of wetlands to potentially mitigate the effects of severe
storms [69]
Restricting heights and density of buildings to allow for increased ventilation [69]
Restriction of development in ood plains and coastal areas vulnerable to sea
level rise [70]
Implementation of policies or technologies to prepare for climate change impacts,
for example, changing building codes to reect increased extreme weather events
and different heating and cooling needs in the future or increasing urban vegeta-
tion or high-albedo roofs [70]
Building or changing structures such as sea walls or levees (to address sea level
rise and ooding), increasing structural strength of buildings (to address increased
storms), or using ecosystem-based adaptation techniques (to minimize storm,
wave, and wind damage) [6971]
Increased use of renewable energy and increased building energy efciency [72]
Increased provision for pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transport in urban areas [72]
There are several examples of biomimetic materials, technologies, and concepts
being employed as strategies to adapt buildings and cities to climate change. The rst
and most common category of examples are those that respond to the anticipated
direct impacts of climate change on the built environment [8]. The second is a more
comprehensive approach to altering the built environment so it becomes more
adaptable and resilient as a whole system. This includes careful specication of
materials that take into account impacts on ecosystem services from a whole life
cycle perspective [73,74].
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 15
Responding to Direct Impacts of Climate Change
The living world is made up of numerous organisms that effectively solve the same
problems that buildings and cities will face as climate change continues. While the
potential impacts of climate change are numerous and are dependent on local
conditions, the list of organisms and ecosystems that thrive under similar conditions
is also long. There are approximately 1.8 million species on the planet that have been
described and categorized. Estimates of the total number of species range from 2 to
100 million, with a best guessof 14 million [75]. Some organisms demonstrate
strategies to adapt to changes on a temporary basis that could be useful for humans to
study, while others adapt over the longer term or over generations, through the
processes of evolution. There are, for example, many organisms and ecosystems that
manage frequent overheating, high winds, and erosion.
Several architectural biomimicry projects respond to the direct impacts of climate
change. Grimshaw Architects in collaboration with Charlie Paton of Seawater
Greenhouse, for example, has taken an understanding of the Namib Desert beetle
(Fig. 5) and proposed a unique desalinization process as part of a proposed outdoor
theater called Teatro del Agua on the Canary Islands as a response to changes in
precipitation patterns and projected water shortages. The beetle lives in desert
conditions with negligible rainfall but with short infrequent morning fogs. It is
able to capture moisture from the fog that moves swiftly over the desert by tilting
its body into the wind. Water condenses on the surface of the beetles back because
its black shell is cooler than the surrounding air. Droplets form on the shell, and the
alternating hydrophilic/hydrophobic surface of the beetles back and wings enables
the drops to roll down into its mouth [76,77]. Aspects of the beetle are mimicked in
the proposed theater by passing seawater over a series of evaporative grilles. As the
sea breeze moves through these grilles, some of the water evaporates leaving salt
behind. The moist air then continues until it hits pipes holding cool seawater,
pumped up from the nearby ocean. As the warm moist air touches the cool pipes,
condensation forms and clean freshwater trickles down the outside of the pipes and is
collected. The building is projected to be self-sufcient in water with surplus being
transferrable to neighboring buildings and landscapes [10]. Research shows that
surfaces and materials designed based on the beetles shell are several times more
effective at harvesting fog than typical methods using nets [78] and can be used for
other applications such as improving dehumidication and distillation equipment
An established example of biomimetic bio-mineralization that could relate to
climate change adaptation is called Biorock (Fig. 5). Biorock was developed by
marine biologist Dr. Thomas Goreau and engineer Professor Wolf Hilbertz in the
1970s to restore coral reefs. Frames of steel are placed on ocean oors, and low-
voltage current that is not harmful to marine life is passed through the frames. This
encourages minerals dissolved in the seawater to crystallize. A layer of minerals
appear on the frames within a few days. Coral can be attached to this. Accretion rates
are up to 50 mm per year with a load bearing strength of between 24 and 80 MPa (in
comparison concretes compressive strength is typically between 17 and 28 MPa)
16 M. Pedersen Zari
Fig. 5 Desert beetle (top), Biorock (bottom) (Stenocara dentata (top): photographer H. Hillewaert.
CC-BY-SA-3.0. Source: Biorock
reef Indonesia (bottom): photographer U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. CC-BY-SA-2.0. Source:
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 17
[81]. The process continues for as long as the current moves through the metal
substrate. The resulting material has self-repairing characteristics. The exact makeup
of the material is dependent on the type of seawater it grows from. The original intent
of the technology was to develop low-cost structures on land. Biorock has been used
since 1975 in at least 20 countries [81] and is a rare example of an established
biomimetic technology focused on adapting to climate change and reducing biodi-
versity loss concurrently, which is regenerative of ecosystem health.
Responses to the direct impacts of climate change are helpful for a gradual
response to the impacts of climate change. They require accurate knowledge of
what the impacts of climate change will be for a given site over time, which is
difcult to predict accurately in many cases however. A benet of this approach is
that materials, technologies, and architectural responses to direct impacts may be
transferable to other places with similar issues. Developing materials, individual
technologies or even whole buildings to deal with the myriad of direct climate
change impacts on the built environment does not however ready the built environ-
ment for unpredicted changes or indirect climate change impacts [8], which may in
fact have more impact on humanity than the direct impacts of climate. Focusing
solely on adapting the built environment to the direct impacts of climate change also
does not address multiple concurrent and converging impacts [82]. Understanding
local built environments as whole systems in terms of their strengths and weaknesses
and utilizing these to create greater resilience may be a more effective way to plan for
unpredictable future climatic changes [8,73].
Responding to Indirect Impacts of Climate Change
Indirect impacts of climate change such as food shortages, increased disease risk,
nancial or political instability, or even the inability to use private vehicles might
have more of an impact on the viability of current urban environments in the future
than direct climate change impacts on the actual physical fabric of cities. This
illustrates that it is important to consider impacts of climate change alongside related
issues and to take a whole-systems socio-ecological approach, even when simply
specifying materials [8]. Adapting to climate change is more complex that specifying
and employing some new kind of material but instead requires a rethinking and a
thorough whole-systems approach to design. Determining overall goals for the
ecological performance of a building, landscape, urban system, or piece of infra-
structure that materials will make up is a necessary rst step to determining which
materials are most appropriate in that specic climatic and cultural context. This is
why it is never possible to say with absolute certainty if a material is sustainable or
not, because it always depends on the context a material is used in.
One of the most signicant indirect impacts of climate change is the degradation
of many different types of ecosystems across the planet [83,84]. This is signicant
because ecosystems provide humanity with irreplaceable and vital ecosystem ser-
vices (e.g., the provision of food, freshwater, and energy; climate regulation; erosion
control; pollination; purication of water, soil, and air; etc. [8587]). People are
18 M. Pedersen Zari
entirely dependent upon these ecosystem services for survival as well as economic
and social well-being [73]. Ecosystem services analysis is a biomimetic method (in
this case mimicking what services ecosystems produce) developed by Pedersen Zari
[8,88,89] and is a means by which the concept of ecosystem services is specically
applied to built environment design and materials selection [73,74]. Employing an
understanding of ecosystem services in materials selection is a way to consider the
contributions ecosystems make to providing materials, as well as the impacts that
extracting, harvesting, processing, and using materials can have on ecosystems. By
calculating or estimating the impact various materials have on ecosystem services at
different spatial and temporal scales, a complementary set of decision-making
criteria for selecting materials can be devised in addition to life cycle assessment
and human health impact factors [74].
Conclusions and Further Outlook
As demonstrated by examples given in this chapter, different kinds of biomimetic
materials might be utilized in short-, medium-, and long-term responses to climate
change, some of which are likely to be more effective than others from a long-term
ecological perspective. Biomimicry in general, and biomimetic materials speci-
cally, could be useful in efforts to improve energy efciencies, replace the use of
fossil fuels, develop technologies or techniques to address direct climate change
impacts, and importantly, although linked less to individual materials, could be
helpful in the systemic improvement of the built environment using ecosystem
biomimicry [88]. Technologies and materials that increase energy efciencies and
can sequester or store carbon may form part of an important short- to medium-term
approach but should be seen as intermediate steps. As well as a reduced or poten-
tially negative carbon footprint for the built environment, examples of existing
biomimetic materials and technologies reveal approaches that use current excess
GHGs as resources for new materials. Biomimetic technologies that address direct
climate change impacts and technologies or systems that prevent further GHG
emissions have also been examined and could be implemented alongside wider
systemic change in the built environment, including a consideration of peoples
consumption behavior and lifestyle expectations.
The examples of biomimetic materials, technologies, and concepts examined in
this chapter suggest that buildings and urban environments should be expected to
become intelligent active contributors to climate restoration, ecosystem regenera-
tion, and ourishing social systems, rather than remaining unresponsive agents of
climate and ecosystem degeneration. That a greater understanding of ecology and
systems design is required on the part of design teams and materials speciers is
implicit with such a biomimicry approach. By using processes of carbon sequestra-
tion seen in living organisms and entire ecosystems as a source of design inspiration,
newly constructed human built environments may be more likely to evolve to
become net carbon sinks rather than major producers of GHGs as is currently the
case. Design that mimics ecosystems and utilizes synergies between mitigation and
Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 19
adaptation strategies in relation to climate change could be a benecial long-term
biomimetic built environment response to climate change in the context of built
environment design and specically in materials selection.
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Biomimetic Materials for Addressing Climate Change 23
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Full-text available
This chapter builds upon Chapter 1, and describes how the concept of ecosystem services can practically be applied to built environment design. A methodology for applying the ideas to designing whole buildings, neighborhoods, or urban areas is described and illustrated, and then ecosystem services analysis in relation to building materials specification is discussed. A series of quick reference tables are provided that examine a selection of materials that are grown, extracted, or that are made. The chapter concludes by issuing a challenge to consider the built environment as a series of interdependent systems that interact with each other, local and more distant biological ecosystems, global climate, and human communities. Leveraging this understanding may be paramount to the evolution of built environments that have positive impacts on ecosystems rather than damaging ones.
Full-text available
Solar energy storage is an emerging technology which can promote the solar energy as the primary source of electricity. Recent development of laser scribed graphene electrodes exhibiting a high electrical conductivity have enabled a green technology platform for supercapacitor-based energy storage, resulting in cost-effective, environment-friendly features, and consequent readiness for on-chip integration. Due to the limitation of the ion-accessible active porous surface area, the energy densities of these supercapacitors are restricted below ~3???10???Whcm??. In this paper, we demonstrate a new design of biomimetic laser scribed graphene electrodes for solar energy storage, which embraces the structure of Fern leaves characterized by the geometric family of space filling curves of fractals. This new conceptual design removes the limit of the conventional planar supercapacitors by significantly increasing the ratio of active surface area to volume of the new electrodes and reducing the electrolyte ionic path. The attained energy density is thus significantly increased to ~10???Whcm??- more than 30 times higher than that achievable by the planar electrodes with ~95% coulombic efficiency of the solar energy storage. The energy storages with these novel electrodes open the prospects of efficient self-powered and solar-powered wearable, flexible and portable applications.
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Presently, the world is experiencing an important energetic crisis due to the increasing demands of humanity and the limited resources provided by fossil fuels. In this context, harvesting and converting solar energy via artificial photosynthesis, in a similar way as plants and photosynthetic organisms do, offers an ideal way to limit the dependence of our society on fossil fuel and its myriad consequences. Hence, it is of extreme importance the development and study of molecular artificial photosynthetic reactions centers and antenna complexes to build the understanding required for development of future scalable technologies. This review focuses on the study of molecular complexes, design of which is inspired by the components of natural photosynthesis, and covers research from early triad reaction centers developed in the 80s by the group of Gust, Moore, and Moore to recent hybrid systems capable of reproduce specific functions of the photosynthetic apparatus.
It is clear that the climate is changing and ecosystems are becoming severely degraded. Humans must mitigate the causes of, and adapt to, climate change and the loss of biodiversity, as the impacts of these changes become more apparent and demand urgent responses. These pressures, combined with rapid global urbanisation and population growth mean that new ways of designing, retrofitting and living in cities are critically needed. Incorporating an understanding of how the living world works and what ecosystems do into architectural and urban design is a step towards the creation and evolution of cities that are radically more sustainable and potentially regenerative. Can cities produce their own food, energy, and water? Can they be designed to regulate climate, provide habitat, cycle nutrients, and purify water, air and soil? This book examines and defines the field of biomimicry for sustainable built environment design and goes on to translate ecological knowledge into practical methodologies for architectural and urban design that can proactively respond to climate change and biodiversity loss. These methods are tested and exemplified through a series of case studies of existing cities in a variety of climates. Regenerative Urban Design and Ecosystem Biomimicry will be of great interest to students, professionals and researchers of architecture, urban design, ecology, and environmental studies, as well as those interested in the interdisciplinary study of sustainability, ecology and urbanism. Routledge is trialling a system of letting their authors share their books in their entirety for free (60 days). So... here is a link to the book 'regenerative urban design and ecosystem biomimicry' Valid till late October 2018. Enjoy!!!
Principles for Evaluating Building Materials in Sustainable Construction: Healthy and Sustainable Materials for the Built Environment provides a comprehensive overview of the issues associated with the selection of materials for sustainable construction, proposing a holistic and integrated approach. The book evaluates the issues involved in choosing materials from an ecosystem services perspective, from the design stage to the impact of materials on the health of building users. The three main sections of the book discuss building materials in relation to ecosystem services, the implications of materials choice at the design stage, and the impact of materials on building users and their health. The final section focuses on specific case studies that illustrate the richness of solutions that existed before the rise of contemporary construction and that are consistent with a sustainable approach to creating built environments. These are followed by modern examples which apply some, if not all, of the principles discussed in the first three sections of the book.
Bioinspired science and engineering is on the increase—a rapid increase—if judged by the numbers of meetings, paper titles, research funding applications, etc in recent years. Why choose now to launch a journal in the area, and why not earlier? Timing is a tricky thing to get right but it is important to look ahead and make sure the journal topic is on a rising curve with a steep rate of ascent. Bioinspired engineering and biomimetics appear to be at this position on the curve of current interest. The publishers and I feel this will continue to be a growth area. Why should I be Editor-in-Chief of this new journal? What background do I have in working across biological and engineering boundaries if they, indeed, exist? Back in the early 1970s I carried out PhD research into modelling the dynamic characteristics of neural stretch receptors. From this I learned that engineering systems could benefit from such investigations in addition to any insight into dynamics that might help the neurophysiologist's understanding of such a physiological system. As a control engineer (if I have to have a label) it is enlightening to see how elegant biological control systems can be. Often simple, yet sophisticated, sense organs, efficient data transmission lines and coding strategies are coupled with an uncomplicated implementation of a control scheme. A current interest in neuronal control of insect leg position highlights how few neurons can be involved to achieve control where engineers would tend to use a PC! This approach continued but was more focused on clinical medicine. Studies followed on the control of cerebral blood flow, particularly for clinical assessment of the state of the autoregulatory system. In our current work we are studying the impressive capabilities of bats and dolphins in terms of target resolution and material discrimination; capabilities that currently we can get nowhere near using engineering systems. Perhaps they use acoustic signalling techniques that, if fully understood, may guide the design of the next generation of ultrasonic transducers and sonar systems. By its very nature, this work is multi-disciplinary and colleagues in biology, geology, medical physics, acoustics and transducer design are involved, as they should be if real progress is to be made. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics: Learning from nature aims to provide a timely, cross-disciplinary forum for researchers to facilitate the flow of ideas and understanding across different disciplines, particularly between the extensive bodies of knowledge lodged in the core subject specialities. And there lies a major challenge. How will we cope with differences in terminology for example? To a large extent this bridge has been crossed already in journals covering fields such as biomedical engineering where authors must describe their work in a way which is accessible to researchers in biomedical science, physics and engineering, and in clinical medicine. The Institute of Physics (IOP) has considerable experience of such cross-disciplinary journals and in my previous role as Editor-in-Chief of just such a journal I was particularly keen on crossing boundaries. It is at such boundaries where significant advances are often made by those who can work alongside colleagues from a different field of work but who can communicate their ideas effectively. Mutual respect is a key element in such collaborations and it is an intention of Bioinspiration & Biomimetics to foster the links between the biological and physical sciences and engineering and technology since the potential for exciting developments from such links is considerable. As a means of expanding these links we aim to publish papers of a tutorial nature that will cover significant, emerging topics of interest or exciting new techniques. Sensors or signal processing, for example, which could have an impact on many areas of experimental investigation. Topical reviews are particularly welcome and are seen as extremely important at this stage of development of the field in order to pull together related work in specific areas and also to point the way forward to future possibilities. We will publish communications as a means of indicating current developments that are underway, if not yet mature or fully validated. Typical areas of interest for the journal include materials, communication and navigation, propulsion, flight, sensors and sensing, and cooperative behaviour (for more information see the journal scope). In order to unite papers in areas of topical interest we will publish special issues on important themes such as materials/smart structures, flight, propulsion and bioacoustics. Guest Editors will be sought for these issues to ensure that we have the best coverage possible. On occasion we will also call for papers in specific topic areas, particularly when we identify emerging topics that are likely to be important to the field, or have significant impact in certain areas of interest. Here our Editorial Board will be key in guiding the journal and in keeping its collective finger on the pulse. We are very fortunate to have been able to assemble such a high quality, international Editorial Board and feedback from them about the journal aims and scope has been very positive. We look forward to a very fruitful collaboration on behalf of Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. The IOP website is well developed and paper submission and handling is all carried out electronically. Your papers will be published electronically before they appear in print, which gives you a citable reference as early in the process as possible. It also allows other researchers to access your paper much more quickly. Author support is available through the IOP website at and, in addition, we have a local office in Southampton where Maggie Howls, Managing Editor, will be able to answer your queries. Andrew Malloy is the Publisher running the journal at IOP and he will be able to help with any queries you may have about the web interface. I look forward to receiving your manuscripts for peer review and if you have ideas for a review paper or a special issue I would be delighted to hear from you. Indeed, any comments you may have on the journal aims and scope would be very welcome since we need the research community to help in guiding the direction, particularly in the early days. You can find details of the online submission process and contact information through the website at
Mango Materials' technology can accommodate biogas that contains impurities and may be considered marginal quality by other users. Advantages of the Mango Materials plastic are reducing pollution, biocompatible and safe for use in food packaging and biomedical applications, and manufactured using a less energy-intensive process. Mango Materials explored many opportunities for initial funding, including venture capital. Mango Materials' current focus is to scale the entire bioplastic production process; now that the technology has been validated at small scales, the next challenge is to validate it at a larger scale. Scaling the process will also enable production of samples that can be given to potential customers. Once Mango Materials has produced large-scale samples for customers, it will verify the biodegradation of these samples in accordance with various standards. Mango Materials aims to produce biodegradable plastics from methane at a price onparity with petroleum-based plastics in order to be competitive in the marketplace.
Biomimetic organization principles have inspired the design, synthesis and study of supramolecular fullerene architectures. The exceptional progress made to incorporate fullerenes into well-ordered arrays has been based on hydrogen-bonding, K-K stacking, metal-mediated complexation and electrostatic motifs, which are overviewed in this chapter. Owing to the presence of fullerenes as an integrative building block, the majority of the presented molecular architectures exhibit unique and remarkable features. Particular attention has been focused on those ensembles showing electron-donor/electron-acceptor interactions as a new class of energy harvesting materials. © 2005 by World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.