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A framework for the design of bioinspired building envelopes: case study of an adaptive skin inspired by the morpho butterfly


Abstract and Figures

Building envelopes have a key role to the occupant comfort. Their design, implementation and functionalities highly influence the overall building performance. Some current research focus on strategies to improve buildings energy efficiency while minimizing their impact on the environment. Bioinspiration i.e., the inspiration of biological organisms for technical solutions, has been for the past decades an emerging field in the building construction. Living systems are the results of successive adaptations that occurred during the last billions of years to sustain under a constrained environment. They usually demonstrate optimization strategies rather than maximization, including adjusting to climatic variations and managing multiple physical factors, such as heat, light, air with local natural and renewable resources. While the potential of bioinspiration for the building sector is beyond doubt, its implementation still needs developments, as the transfer of a biological principle to a technical solution often requires scales and materials transpositions to technology. This paper presents a bioinspired design issued from an experimental framework; the authors first selected and characterized biological models, then used the generated data during a conceptualisation workshop gathering engineers and architects. It emerged a concept of an adaptive double-skin building envelope, inspired from the morpho butterfly, that can manage heat and light transfers towards the building envelope.
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A framework for the design of bioinspired building envelopes:
case study of an adaptive skin inspired by the morpho butterfly
Tessa Hubert 1) 2) 3) *, Tingting Vogt Wu 2), Antoine Dugué 1),
Denis Bruneau 3), Fabienne Aujard 4)
1) NOBATEK/INEF4, National Institute for the Energy Transition in the Construction sector, France
2) University of Bordeaux, I2M, UMR 5295, Talence, France
3) Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et Paysage de Bordeaux, Talence, France
4) MECADEV UMR CNRS 7179 - National Museum of Natural History, Brunoy, France
*Corresponding author:
Building envelopes have a key role to the occupant comfort. Their design, implementation and functionalities
highly influence the overall building performance. Some current research focus on strategies to improve
buildings energy efficiency while minimizing their impact on the environment. Bioinspiration i.e., the inspiration
of biological organisms for technical solutions, has been for the past decades an emerging field in the building
construction. Living systems are the results of successive adaptations that occurred during the last billions of
years to sustain under a constrained environment. They usually demonstrate optimization strategies rather
than maximization, including adjusting to climatic variations and managing multiple physical factors, such as
heat, light, air with local natural and renewable resources. While the potential of bioinspiration for the building
sector is beyond doubt, its implementation still needs developments, as the transfer of a biological principle to
a technical solution often requires scales and materials transpositions to technology. This paper presents a
bioinspired design issued from an experimental framework; the authors first selected and characterized
biological models, then used the generated data during a conceptualisation workshop gathering engineers and
architects. It emerged a concept of an adaptive double-skin building envelope, inspired from the morpho
butterfly, that can manage heat and light transfers towards the building envelope.
Keywords: bioinspiration, adaptive skin, product design, parametric, regulation factors, biological models.
1. Introduction
1.1 Bioinspiration and architecture
The building envelope can be defined as a separator between the conditioned and unconditioned
environments. It is composed of multiple systems, walls, roofs, windows, or foundations, which all have
hierarchical structures and layers [1] hosting specific functions in response to a wide range of environment
solicitations. Aiming at adapting the envelope system for an improved performance, adaptive envelopes i.e.,
reacting in real time to environmental changes, have therefore become a growing interest in the building area
[2][5]. In particular, recent research has been focusing on bioinspiration, a creative approach based on the
observation of biological systems [6], as a promising field for adaptive solutions.
Living systems have evolved under multiple environmental pressures such as climate changes, scarce
resources or competition. They have developed efficient and multi-functional features. Some of those have ,
already inspired multiple innovative designs in the architecture field [3]. However, the functions or strategies
resulting from the chosen biological models during the architectural design processes are sometimes poorly
abstracted, resulting in monofunctional concepts [7] or hardly achievable systems [8]. This paper describes a
framework designed to overcome some of the abstraction challenges, from the biological domain towards
architecture and engineering applications. Workshops using this framework were then organized and we
present here the full process illustrated through an example of a building envelope element design, inspired
by the morpho butterfly intrinsic properties and behaviour features.
1.2 Existing frameworks
There are two ways to approach the design process of bioinspiration: either through a technology-pull
approach, meaning addressing first a design problem and seeking the solution in strategies of nature, or
through biology-push, which is using biological findings as a starting point and transferring them into
engineering designs [6]. While the biology-push approach is generally based on serendipity, the technology-
pull appears as the most suitable approach for systemic and widespread use in an industrial setting, since it
starts in a technical environment [9].
For either approach, there is extensive research on frameworks, tools and methods to support the bioinspired
design process [9][12]. They include databases or alternatively thesaurus, linguistic or semantic tools allowing
back-and-forth between the involved biological domain and design concepts [13]. However, few of these tools
were developed for architectural purposes. Although some of the design processes can be adapted to the built
environment, designers are still widely challenged with 1) the selection of biological models to address multiple
requirements that are sometimes contradictory [14] , and 2) how to actually combine the chosen functions or
strategies into a design that can be implemented into a building [8]. Today, even though transposition from a
biological model to a technological design is assisted by recent progress in materials and innovative
construction techniques [15][17], it is in practice very often unachieved; the benefits provided by the
bioinspired design do not counterbalance the resources or means at stake for its implementation.
2. Methodology
This research is an application of a bioinspiration design framework, with the objective of developing an
adaptive and multi-functional building envelope as a product. As a starting point, the authors chose to explore
the biology-push approach adapted from the design process described by the ISO standard 2015:18458 [6].
The process applied in this research is presented on Figure 1. First step is the identification of biological models
in the literature and arbitrarily selecting the ones that can potentially generate architectural concepts with high
potential (step 1, part 2.1). These biological models are characterized and described using engineer and
architect-oriented criteria (step 2, part 2.2), and stored in a database that designers can explore and
comprehend (step 3, part 0).
This database can then be exploited to abstract models of their choice into more general concepts (step 4,
part 2.4). Foreseeing innovative designs applicable in their fields, technology and material considerations are
requested (step 5, part 2.4) before proposing a final concept of building envelope. The implementation of this
concept involves prototyping and evaluation (step 6, part 3) before potential integration on the market. Those
six steps are presented in the bottom part of Figure 1, in parallel to the ISO standard 2015:18458 [6]. The
following sections detail, under the prism of the morpho butterfly biological model, steps 1 to 6 which led to an
actual bioinspired concept of adaptive building envelope.
Figure 1: Comparison of the solution-driven biomimetic design process (adapted from [6]) and the process
developed by the authors. Note that there may be iterations between steps 4, 5, and 6.
2.1 Pre-selection of biological models: biological envelopes (step 1)
Living organisms present a wide variety of behavioural and physiological characteristics. Such a diversity of
functions and systems cannot be taken into account all at the same time if one wants to get an overview of
models from different orders and even reigns. To narrow down the study perimeter of biological models, only
biological interfaces (integuments such as skin, membrane, feathers) are considered. As building envelopes,
all living organisms with integuments present wide ranges of living environments, as well as requirements to
survive (pressure, temperature, pH, light, oxygen levels, etc.).
Few species were selected (sample in Table 1) according to the following criteria:
- The environment of the species and their requirements for survival are similar to the ones expected
for a building. For example, deep sea species tolerating very high pressure were not considered as
potential candidates.
- A biological envelope is usually composed by one to several layers, the outer layers being associated
to appendages: hair, scales, feathers, shells, etc. These features all provide diverse regulation
capabilities, hence the selection should represent a variety of these layers and appendages, in order
to propose to the candidates a large panel of functions.
Table 1: Some of the selected species with their respective layers and appendages.
Class / Order
Layer [18]
Morpho butterfly
Insect / Lepidoptera
Reptile / Squamata
Roman snail
Gastropod / Stylommatophora
Skin & mucous
Mammal / Primate
Silver ant
Insect / Hymenoptera
Pine cone
Pinopsida / Pinales
2.2 Engineer-oriented characterization (step 2)
The objective of characterizing the biological envelopes is to provide qualitative or quantitative description on
how they regulate some physical factors from the environment, and how they operate. The inputs from the
environment can be defined by:
- Abiotic factors [20], which are non-living chemical and physical elements of the environment that affect
living organisms. Typically, rain, ambient air or wind, are abiotic factors which can affect the internal
temperature of a living organism.
- Biotic factors [21], which are living organisms affecting their environment. For a biological envelope, it
could be the influence of other species, whether it is mutualism or predation, or the influence of the
species themselves, through behaviour mechanisms or metabolism.
Based on previous work on physical biological envelopes [22], [23], the authors proposed a characterization
of biological envelopes through regulations factors relative to building envelope requirements (thermal comfort,
heat regulation, load resistance, etc.) described by physical factors and features. The characterization of the
morpho butterfly is shown in Table 2, even though it was applied to all selected species. It is specified for each
regulation property whether it is caused by biotic factors, abiotic factors, or both: thereby, users of this
characterization can grasp the underlying physical phenomena of functions while taking into consideration
their mechanisms of activation.
Table 2: Characterisation parameters applied to the wings (thorax) of the morpho butterfly. A: Abiotic factor,
B: biotic factor. No particular characteristics were found in the literature about air and sound properties of the
morpho wings.
Physical factor
Surface texture
Structural blue colour for iridescence with
air/chitin [24]
Honeycomb-like structure [25]
Matter arrangement
Orientation of wings [26]
Time variation
Surface properties different top/bottom
Orientation of wings for long-wave radiation
towards sky or near environment [27]
Matter arrangement
Haemolymph circulation for heat dissipation
Wings shuffling for forced convection [27]
Matter arrangement
Matter composition
Higher emission in near infrared when
overheating [28]
Surface texture
Matter arrangement
Matter composition
Hydrophobic surface from nano-structuration
Self-cleaning surface [30]
Matter arrangement
Chitin-made [25]
Flexible and ductal material, multi-structuration
2.3 Data exploration for concept generation (step 3)
The characterized biological principles were then tested as bioinspiration sources for architectural purposes
during a two-session workshop. The experiment was conducted with 10 participants: 3 architects, 4 engineers,
and 3 mixed profiles (architect-engineers). The protocol was the following:
- Training-course on bioinspiration and application in architecture;
- Presentation of the characterized database, then exploration and abstraction by the participants with
the instruction to derive one or several envelope designs. The proposed designs have to preferentially
comply with a Cfb climate [31] and ideally regulate multiple functions of their choice;
- Restitution of the concepts: live sketches, and transposition of concept to systems or products of
In addition to the characterization in Table 2, decision-support tools were provided to designer to help meta
exploration, and facilitate a first sorting of few biological models.
Table 3: Qualitative characterization of regulation factors of the wings of morpho butterfly. A quick glance on
the radar chart indicates a combination of interesting properties in regards with light, air and heat regulations
as well as structural properties.
Visual tool (Kiviat)
Meaning of score
0 to 3: None to high involvement of the
biological envelope (intrinsic properties)
in the regulation of abiotic factors.
For water regulation, the cuticule is watertight
and the scales have hydrophobic properties
0 to 3: None to high impact of biotic
factors on the regulation of abiotic
For heat regulation, the species orients or
flaps its wings (Heat=2), for heat radiation
with environement or forced air convection.
2.4 Abstraction and transposition of biological models (steps 4 and 5)
Abstraction is an inductive process leading to underlying functional principles of biological systems [6]. At this
stage of the design process, Abstraction level and Dimension ratio criteria were introduced to participants of
the workshops:
- Low to high abstraction level is related to the degree of contextualisation of a biological model. The
physical context of a biological model can be described under various scales, whether it is considered
as a system, a sub-system or a super-system. In this definition, low abstraction means detailing a
biological model under one scale only, whereas high abstraction is considering different scales
combined to result in one to multiple functions.
- Dimension ratio is comparing the spatial scale(s) of a specific abstraction of a model, to a technologic
transposition of this same model (Error! Reference source not found.).
When the designers questioned themselves whether the transpositions were to be seriously considered as
viable concepts, these criteria helped them explore technological alternatives. Zooming in and out of the
biological models and their transpositions offered new viewpoints, thus facilitating technological transfer and
Table 4: Transposed thermoregulation principles to potential technologies. Dimension ratio: abstraction
dimension / transposition dimension, such as nano (n), meso (m), macro (M).
Abstraction for heat
Possible transposition
Intrinsic emissive properties of
scales on wings adapting on a
given temperature range due to
nano-structuration of scales on
the wings
Direct use of a scale-like material
Changing-texture nano materials
Adaptive smart-coating
Interchangeable materials for each
climate condition
Enhancing convection with
wings while flying
Moving surfaces for convection
Involvement of users in envelope
Orienting wings towards various
environments for heat radiation
Changing surface orientation (sky,
surroundings, etc.)
For instance, the wings of the morpho have intrinsic hierarchical properties, providing adaptive thermal
protection (see Figure 2). An example of a low abstraction would be using similarly nano-structured material
without an overview of the wing architecture and their multiple scales patterns. The direct transposition to a
technology would most certainly require nano-printing chitin-like material. Although crustacean polymers have
already been manipulated in additive printing research and have shown promising properties [32], the scale-
up to a building seems rather ambitious in terms of cost and more importantly energy-use. An example of a
higher abstraction would be to combine solutions at different scales, such as manually interchanging materials
(macro) that have different emissive properties (nano).
Figure 2: a) Morpho species photography, Credit: Pixabay Licence. b) From left to right, optical images of the
scales on the wing surface, of the butterfly wing scale and of a transverse section of the scale showing
ridges with lamella structures. Credit: Adapted from [32], Licence CC BY-NC 3.0.
3. Emerged concept: bioinspired adaptive skin (step 6)
From the various abstractions and transpositions of the morpho butterfly model, the following principles
emerged from the workshop:
- Adaptive smart-coating on the envelope for thermal regulation;
- Movable mesh changing the orientation of multiple surfaces for thermal and light regulations;
- Surface openings created by mesh distortion for thermal and air regulations;
- Partial control given to the building users to keep a human behavioural component in the design.
Combining these principles led to a final envelope concept, managing heat and light transfers into the building:
a skin envelope that has adaptive radiative, thermal, and light properties, depending on the geometrical
configurations set by the occupants.
3.1 Operating principle of the envelope Stegos
The envelope concept that was called Stegos is a deformable network of small opaque flat hexagonal metallic
elements (Figure 3) bonded by an elastic mesh. By stretching the mesh towards one side or the other of the
surface envelope, the elements are pulled apart: it lets light and air go through these newly-created apertures
modifying the overall behaviour to external weather conditions (sun, air, rain, etc.).
The Stegos is represented in a flat position and in a deployed position on Figure 3. The deformation
represented was generated with one tension point only, on the centre of the surface. Users of the building
control the distortion by choosing the location(s) and force(s) of the deformation(s) to regulate light and air
transmissions. To help distort the envelope, a wired or hydraulic system is to be defined.
Figure 3: Flat (a) and deformed (b) morpho butterfly-inspired envelope.
The hexagonal unitary elements are made of two layers; a fixed base and a rotating flap (Figure 4). When the
elements are pushed away from each other by the deformation, each of them operates a crank-handle initiating
individual and graduated rotations of the flaps. The deformation of the mesh is the highest near the tension
point; the closer to this point, the further the elements are moved apart. Therefore, the rotation of the flaps can
be controlled by the chosen intensity of the applied force by the user, and its location as well.
3.2 Adaptive absorption coefficient
An additional functionality is achieved through a coating on the external surface of the unitary elements, i.e.,
on top of the flaps, that provides an auto-reactive behaviour. A thermochromic smart-paint is formulated to
change when reaching a specific temperature: from one colour to a lighter one, the absorption coefficient of
the surface significantly decreases in the visible spectrum. As it accounts for about 55% of the total solar
spectrum energy [33], the surface temperature of the flaps is predicted to rise slower when exceeding the
threshold temperature.
Figure 4: a) Representation of the kinetics of the elements when the design is flat or deformed. b) Colour
change when heated above a threshold temperature. The sample was coated with an OliKrom paint [34],
formulated in accordance to the authors specifications.
3.3 Applications
This concept can be designed to be integrated as the full envelope itself, aiming as a regulating adaptive
separator between the inside and outside environments. Despite its radical rupture with traditional and
popularly accepted rigid envelopes designs, it can offer interesting regulation assets for warm climates: when
flat, the smart-painting auto-reacts in accordance to the surface temperature, hence protecting the envelope
from overheating. When deformed, it acts as an opened window, letting air and light penetrate the interior
space as intended by the user, while ensuring auto-shading of the envelope. In case of humid climate, one
could also imagine using the flaps as rain-water collector or guiders towards storage units or evaporative-
cooling systems.
Other options would be to position the design either in front of windows as a smart shading-device, or in front
of walls, coupled with a screen frame to act as a second skin. Compared to common second skins found in
the market of buildings, the adaptive emissivity of the external surface would be thermally beneficial. Moreover,
possible convection induced by the openings when deformed might also add a beneficial additional thermal
feature for the design.
4. Discussion and future work
This paper presents a new experimental framework derived from [6] for the design of bioinspired building
envelope through the case-study of the morpho butterfly.
The characterization of the preselected models of biological envelopes helped designers explore, abstract,
and transpose biological data into simple to complex bioinspired concepts. The example of the morpho butterfly
led to an interesting design of a bioinspired skin managing multiple regulating functions. The key features that
inspired the emerged design are the morpho wings adaptive radiative properties and the animal behavioural
mechanisms. The abiotic criteria defined for this framework helped underline intrinsic properties of the animal
wings, that happen to have a strong dominance on the final proposed bioinspired design. Yet, biotic criteria,
identified as wings flapping or varying orientation, clearly provided ideas on the configuration sets (deformation
coupled with orienting flaps) of the envelope. It also added a strong behavioural component to the global
morpho model, that transposed in the design through controlled deformations by the building user.
The proposed design gathers multiple features: deformation of surface, deployment of elements, and surfaces
with adaptive emissivity. To measure the benefits of all features combined in terms of heat, light, and air
transfers, the design is currently being prototyped and tested in real conditions following two main stages. First
measurements will be carried out for the design configured as a smart and flat shading device installed on a
hot box as seen in Error! Reference source not found. (a), to enhance thermal, radiative and self-shadowed
Figure 5: a) Configuration of the prototype integrated to a 1m-side cubic test box. b) Photos of the equipped
test box. c) Zoom on flaps with shades of blue due to differences of temperatures.
Second, tests will be performed on a deformable direct interface version to assess light projections and air
flows generated by various deformation configurations. In parallel, evaluation of these designs through
modelling should bring insight on these first measurements and guide the next ones.
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... The assessment of the building performance is often not carried out, which can be seen as a shortcoming [9]. In an effort to tackle these challenges, the authors experimented with a bioinspired framework [18] that they adapted from an ISO standard design process [19], with the aim of proposing a multifunctional design for the building envelope. ...
Full-text available
Building envelopes can manage light, heat gains or losses, and ventilation and, as such, play a key role in the overall building performance. Research has been focusing on increasing their efficiency by proposing dynamic and adaptive systems, meaning that they evolve to best meet the internal and external varying conditions. Living organisms are relevant examples of adaptability as they have evolved, facing extreme conditions while maintaining stable internal conditions for survival. From a framework based on the inspiration of living envelopes such as animal constructions or biological skins, the concept of an adaptive envelope inspired by the Morpho butterfly was proposed. The system can manage heat, air, and light transfers going through the building and includes adaptive elements with absorption coefficients varying with temperature. This paper presents the developed framework that led to the final concept as well as the concept implementation and assessment. A prototype for heat and light management was built and integrated into a test bench. Measurements were performed to provide a first assessment of the system. In parallel, geometrical parametric models were created to compare multiple configurations in regards to indicators such as air, light, or heat transfers. One of the models provided light projections on the system that were compared with measurements and validated as suitable inputs in grey-box models for the system characterization.
Full-text available
Building skins should host multiple functions for increased performance. Addressing this, their design can benefit by learning from nature to achieve multifunctionality, where multifunctional strategies have evolved over years. However, existing frameworks to develop biomimetic adaptive building skins (Bio-ABS) have limited capabilities transferring multifunctionality from nature into designs. This study shows that through investigating the principles of hierarchy and heterogeneity, multifunctionality in nature can be transferred into biomimetic strategies. We aim at mapping the existing knowledge in biological adaptations from the perspective of multifunctionality and developing a framework achieving multifunctionality in Bio-ABS. The framework is demonstrated through the case study of Echinocactus grusonii implemented as a Bio-ABS on a digital base-case building. The methods include the Bio-ABS case study demonstrating the framework and simulating the performance of the case study and base-case building to comparatively analyze the results. The outcomes are a framework to develop multifunctional Bio-ABS and simulation results on the performance improvement Bio-ABS offer. The performance comparison between the Bio-ABS and base-case building show that there is a decrease in the discomfort hours by a maximum of 23.18%. In conclusion, translating heterogeneity and hierarchy principles in nature into engineered designs is a key aspect to achieve multifunctionality in Bio-ABS offering improved strategies in performance over conventional buildings.
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The wings of Lepidoptera contain a matrix of living cells whose function requires appropriate temperatures. However, given their small thermal capacity, wings can overheat rapidly in the sun. Here we analyze butterfly wings across a wide range of simulated environmental conditions, and find that regions containing living cells are maintained at cooler temperatures. Diverse scale nanostructures and non-uniform cuticle thicknesses create a heterogeneous distribution of radiative cooling that selectively reduces the temperature of structures such as wing veins and androconial organs. These tissues are supplied by circulatory, neural and tracheal systems throughout the adult lifetime, indicating that the insect wing is a dynamic, living structure. Behavioral assays show that butterflies use wings to sense visible and infrared radiation, responding with specialized behaviors to prevent overheating of their wings. Our work highlights the physiological importance of wing temperature and how it is exquisitely regulated by structural and behavioral adaptations. Butterfly wings have low thermal capacity and thus are vulnerable to damage by overheating. Here, Tsai et al. take an interdisciplinary approach to reveal the organs, nanostructures and behaviors that enable butterflies to sense and regulate their wing temperature.
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Biologically inspired design (BID) is an emerging field of research with increasing achievements in engineering for design and problem solving. Its economic, societal, and ecological impact is considered to be significant. However, the number of existing products and success stories is still limited when compared to the knowledge that is available from biology and BID research. This article describes success factors for BID solutions, from the design process to the commercialization process, based on case studies and market analyses of biologically inspired products. Furthermore, the paper presents aspects of an effective knowledge transfer from science to industrial application, based on interviews with industrial partners. The accessibility of the methodological approach has led to promising advances in BID in practice. The findings can be used to increase the number of success stories by providing key steps toward the implementation and commercialization of BID products, and to point out necessary fields of cooperative research.
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This work reports a bioinspired three-dimensional (3D) heterogeneous structure for optical hydrogen gas (H2) sensing. The structure was fabricated by selective modification of the photonic architectures of Morpho butterfly wing scales with Pd nanostrips. The coupling of the plasmonic mode of the Pd nanostrips with the optical resonant mode of the Morpho biophotonic architectures generated a sharp reflectance peak in the spectra of the Pd-modified butterfly wing, as well as enhancement of light–matter interaction in Pd nanostrips. Exposure to H2 resulted in a rapid reversible increase in the reflectance of the Pd-modified butterfly wing, and the pronounced response of the reflectance was at the wavelength where the plasmonic mode strongly interplayed with the optical resonant mode. Owing to the synergetic effect of Pd nanostrips and biophotonic structures, the bioinspired sensor achieved an H2 detection limit of less than 10 ppm. Besides, the Pd-modified butterfly wing also exhibited good sensing repeatability. The results suggest that this approach provides a promising optical H2 sensing scheme, which may also offer the potential design of new nanoengineered structures for diverse sensing applications.
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Building envelopes represent the interface between the outdoor environment and the indoor occupied spaces. They are often considered as barriers and shields, limiting solutions that adapt to environmental changes. Nature provides a large database of adaptation strategies that can be implemented in design in general, and in the design of building envelopes in particular. Biomimetics, where solutions are obtained by emulating strategies from nature, is a rapidly growing design discipline in engineering, and an emerging field in architecture. This paper presents a biomimetic approach to facilitate the generation of design concepts, and enhance the development of building envelopes that are better suited to their environments. Morphology plays a significant role in the way systems adapt to environmental conditions, and provides a multi-functional interface to regulate heat, air, water, and light. In this work, we emphasize the functional role of morphology for environmental adaptation, where distinct morphologies, corresponding processes, their underlying mechanisms, and potential applications to buildings are distinguished. Emphasizing this morphological contribution to environmental adaptation would enable designers to apply a proper morphology for a desired environmental process, hence promoting the development of adaptive solutions for building envelopes.
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Biomimetics, as the transfer of strategies from biology to technology, is an emerging research area and has led to significant concepts over the past decades. The development of such concepts is described by the process of biomimetics, encompassing several steps. In Practice, beneficiaries of the process face challenges. Therefore, to overcome challenges and to facilitate the steps, tools have been developed in various areas, such as engineering, computing and design. However, these tools are not widely used yet. This paper presents an overview and a classification study of more than 40 tools with qualitative criteria. The criteria included, for example, the year of development, the accessibility of tools, the facilitated steps of the process or their contribution to sustainability. The classification shows that certain steps of the process and their challenges are well addressed by the tools, while other steps are not. The presented results contribute to the proposal of an improvement of the state of the art, and they build the foundation for future theoretical and practical analyses. These findings could contribute to increasing the implementation of biomimetics in various disciplines in the long term.
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At Georgia Tech in 2005, we developed an interdisciplinary undergraduate semester-long course, biologically inspired design (BID), co-taught each year by faculty from biology and engineering. The objective of this chapter is to share our teaching experience with those interested in teaching such a course themselves. The specific curriculum of a BID course must depend on the student mix, the institutional context, and instructor goals. Therefore, rather than presenting a particular curriculum, we present key problems that we encountered in our 8 years of teaching and how we addressed them. We expect that any who try to teach such a course will face one or more of the same challenges, and we offer numerous pedagogical approaches that can be tailored to their specific circumstances. By describing our solutions, their consequences, and the extent to which they met our expectations, we also point out where tough student challenges still exist that are in need of attention from the community.
Biomimetics is an opportunity for the development of energy efficient building systems. Several biomimetic building skins (Bio-BS) have been built over the past decade, however few addressed multi-regulation although the biological systems they are inspired by have multi-functional properties. Recent studies have suggested that despite numerous tools and methods described in the literature for the development of biomimetic systems, their use for designing Bio-BS is scarce. To assess the main challenges of biomimetic design processes and their influence on the final design, this paper presents a comparative analysis of several existing Bio-BS. The analyses were carried out with univariable and multivariate descriptive tools in order to highlight the main trends, similarities and differences between the projects. The authors evaluated the design process of thirty existing Bio-BS, including a focus on the steps related to the understanding of the biological models. Data was collected throughout interviews. The univariate analysis revealed that very little Bio-BS followed a biomimetic design framework (5%). None of the Bio-BS was as multi-functional as their biological model(s) of inspiration. A further conclusion drawn that Bio-BS are mostly inspired by single biological organisms (82%), which mostly belong to the kingdom of animals (53%) and plants (37%). The multivariate analysis outlined that the Bio-BS were distributed into two main groups: (1) academic projects which present a strong correlation with the inputs in biology in their design processes and resulted in radical innovation; (2) public building projects which used conventional design and construction methods for incremental innovation by improving existing building systems. These projects did not involve biologists neither a thorough understanding of biological models during their design process. Since some biomimetic tools are available and Bio-BS have shown limitations in terms of multifunctionality, there is a need to promote the use of multidisciplinary tools in the design process of Bio-BS, and address the needs of the designers to enhance the application of multi-regulation capabilities for improved performances.
This paper provides an overview of the design of biomimetic building skins. Many types of smart and responsive building envelopes have been developed, but their improvement to achieve adaptability remains unclear and unstructured. Studies on biomimicry have formulated strategies but have failed to identify or review their technical and functional aspects in terms of architecture. Therefore, this study aims to understand biomimetic building skin designs by investigating its mechanisms, functions and materials through an adaptive approach. This study describes these biomimetic designs through theories, concepts, issues, approaches, methodologies, materials from nature, developed materials and systems in architectural applications. The study also employs a systematic quantitative research to enhance the integration of biology and architecture. This research is based on an evidence review focusing on selected studies and exploration results in accordance with systematic methods and critical analyses, such as classification and comparison, to identify patterns and trends. This study provides further insights into the relationship between biological systems and building skins. It also contributes to the development of adaptive building skins based on functional aspects to overcome technical challenges and promote innovation and sustainable architectural systems.
La bio-inspiration applique des principes et des stratégies issus de systèmes biologiques afin de faciliter la conception technologique. Doté d’un fort potentiel pour l’Innovation, la biomimétique, son pendant méthodologique, est en passe d’évoluer vers un processus clé pour les entreprises. Un certain nombre de freins demeurent cependant à lever afin que la conception bio-inspirée s’apparente à une démarche robuste et répétable. Les travaux réalisés abordent cette diffusion de la conception bio-inspirée selon deux axes distincts. Ils s’efforcent tout d’abord d’harmoniser champs conceptuels relatifs à la bio-inspiration et modèles de processus biomimétiques, en vue de rendre possible l’évaluation des outils supportant cette démarche de conception. Cette évaluation méthodologique, couverte selon l’angle objectif et subjectif, aboutit à la formalisation d’un modèle structurant, un arbre de classification, à même de guider les concepteurs biomimétiques à travers le processus biomimétique. En parallèle de l’établissement de ce cadre de référence méthodologique, les travaux s’évertuent à explorer un autre verrou inhérent à la démarche : l’interaction entre biologie et ingénierie. Les travaux tendent ainsi, par le développement d’un outil, à réduire l’une des barrières d’entrée de ce type d’approche, en proposant un modèle décrivant fonctionnellement les systèmes biologiques sans prérequis d’expertise biologique. La concaténation de ces réalisations aborde directement l’enjeu principal de ce champs disciplinaire : son essor par la dissémination de son application à l’innovation industrielle, en vue de favoriser l’émergence de « produits biomimétiques » au détriment des « accidents bio-inspirées ».