Category Archives: science

People you should know: Janine Benyus

She was in Cape Town and I had the privledge of listening first hand to her expound on the new science of biomimicry. It was mentioned by someone that it is not just a new source of design ideas, but a new way of thinking. I agree – its early days but the potential is massive.

A few links:

Article on architecture and biomimcry

Reuters article on biomimicry

HOK architects view on biomimicry






Here is a run through 15 cases of biomimetics – using nature as an inspiration for design.

Its pretty incredible, especially when you look at the sustainability issues – energy efficiency gains can be huge compared to conventional designs. The Eastgate Centre uses only 10% of the energy of a comparable building while the Mirasol Displays can use almost zero energy for static LED type displays.

(via William Dembski)

Biofuels and reality

Finally I found someone who is saying it loud and clear: some supposedly eco-friendly biofuels are not much better for the environment than plain old diesel.

See the ethanol fallacy.

Oh, and is uses up crops needed for food…

Engineering photography from Cambridge


Borrowing from nature, the article

This is the article that inspired the title of my previous post. It is a short article but worth the read.

Borrowing from nature in buildings

An article from CNN caught my eye recently. It is about a concept for microgeneration on buildings called ‘nano vent-skin’. The idea is to use nanotechnology to create micro wind turbines linked in a lattice (hence the ‘skin’) to generate electricity for the building. Now I have to give the guy credit for the concept, however I think it will need a lot of work to become practical. firstly nanotechnology is not nearly at the stage where they could produce something like this economically and reliably, if at all. Second, I am skeptical that these turbines will work at such a small scale (dimensional analysis often shows that things that work on a large scale don’t work proportionally on a small scale and vice versa). Finally, wind generation only really works well in wide open spaces with a high wind ocurrence. Cities almost by definition don’t meet these criteria.

But these are the ideas that make the headlines…

In contrast here is an idea that uses only 10% of the cooling and heating costs of a conventional building and whats more it has already been built and is proven. Taken from inspiration from termite mounds, the Eastgate Centre in Harare (of all places!) uses a passive cooling system to maintain a constant temperature throughout the day. I hope to go into the details in a future post.


Entering the Ecological Age: The Engineer’s Role

This is the title of the 7th Brunel International Lecture by Peter Head OBE. Details and the accompanying report is here.