Wake up, we are in the Anthropocene. Our civilization has never faced such existential risks as those associated with global warming, biodiversity erosion and resource depletion. There is no doubt humans have been successful in modifying the planet to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population. But the gains achieved by this spectacular re-engineering have come at a price. It is now wide apparent and acknowledged that humanity’s use of the biosphere, is not sustainable. On the other hand we never had such an opportunity to advance prosperity and eradicate poverty. We have the choice to either finally embark on the journey towards sustainability or to stick to our current destructive ‘business–‐as–‐usual’ pathway. The problem is that we seem to be disconnected from nature and forgotten that our economies and societies are fundamentally integrated with the planet. One step towards reconnection is the development of an urban design and architecture that explores the analogies between ecosystems and living organisms, a design that increases the capacity for sustainability, resilience and regeneration. A design that understands on how humans and nature interact, adapt and impact each other amid change, to reconnect to the biosphere.
This bio-inspired design is inherently linked in the creation of living regenerative architecture, able to increase capacity for self repair in both living ecosystems and the human psyche. Symbiosis, mutualisms, biomimicry and biophilia, are the key aspects of living – bio-inspired- design regenerative design to improve the health of ecosystems and human wellbeing. The definition of cutting edge sustainable architecture is changing rapidly. Aiming for ‘neutral’ or ‘zero’ environmental impact buildings in terms of energy, carbon, waste or water are worthwhile targets. It is becoming clear however, that buildings will need to go beyond having little negative environmental impact in the future, to having net positive environmental benefits. The transition from conventional practice and green architecture (negative environmental impact), to sustainable architecture (zero impact), through to design with positive environmental impact. Living, regenerative architecture is the participation of humans as part of the living system, for the mutual benefit of both.
In the absence of tangible living, regenerative design concepts or methodologies, the intersections in bio-inspired design, which seeks to improve both the ecological and psychological suitability of the built environment, could be a crucial component of creating comprehensive living architecture. (biomimcry as a vehicle for mimicking ecosystems). Biomimicry is the emulation of strategies seen in biology as a basis for design. It is the mimicry of the forms, materials, construction methods, processes, or functions, of an organism, an organism behaviour, or an entire ecosystem Living regeneration proponents is about understanding or mimicking ecosystems (relationships and systems). Ecosystems are resilient, resourceful and opportunistic. They adapt and evolve, have the capacity to heal, and importantly, they create conditions conducive to ongoing life. If the living world is to give designers insights into architectural design, buildings may be considered as parts of a living system. In the same way as an ecosystem, such buildings could be designed to: produce energy and nutrients (materials); clean air and water; and use and transform waste in a complex, adaptive, and cyclic system. It a departure from the idea that the best buildings can be is ‘neutral’ in relation to the living world. The recognition of the fundamental importance of the health of ecosystems and the regeneration of them for the wellbeing of people is important in living design. Living organisms and the systems they create are the source of design innovation. To lose more biodiversity is to lose potential design solutions.
There is more to it: the ecosystems and the human psyche. Biophilic architecturess seeks to incorporate an understanding of the process and importance of the human psychological connection with the perceivable living world. It combines evidence and theories from the areas of environmental psychology, evolutionary psychology, ecological psychology, neuroscience, and from those researchers and designers investigating the biophilia hypothesis and its implications for humans and for design.
Both biomimicry and biophilia seek to understand the living world and the human relationship to it. Biomimicry utilises the translation of biological or ecological strategies to improve the sustainability of the architecture. The rethinking of the physical relationship between human built form and the rest of the living world is central to a holistic form of biomimicry. Biophilic design also leverages an understanding of relationships to create built form that can positively affect the relationship of humans to the built environment, and more broadly the psychological relationship of humans to the living world. This demonstrates that understanding, harnessing and creating relationships and therefore systems, rather than just applying technological solutions without an understanding of wider context, could be a crucial part of living regenerative design. A common aspect of both biomimicry and biophilia is that design decisions are based on an understanding of the physical world that is the human context. Biomimicry looks to understand and then mimic how organisms or ecosystems actually work. Biophilic design incorporates observed and tested human psychological responses to the living world.
Ecosystem-based biomimicry is concerned with replicating functions and processes that are independent of a certain aesthetic. Biophilic architecture too is not easily recognisable as a distinct aesthetic style, because the underlying concepts are interpreted in different ways by designers. Living, legenerative architecture is also unlikely to adhere to a certain visual style, because it will be systems based and place specific. Just as with bio-inspired design, architecture will be deemed ‘living regenerative’, not because of how it looks, but because of how it increases capacity for positive relationships between humans, their built environment and the rest of the living world. One of the principles of ecosystem-based biomimicry is that, the immediate or local context an organism lives in, generally provides the resources and information it needs. Understanding and utilising the local context then becomes an important aspect of ecosystem-based biomimicry. Biomimicry requires collaboration between biologists or ecologists, and designers. Biophilic design similarly requires a multidisciplinary team consisting of psychologists, neuroscientists, and designers. The multidisciplinary nature of bio-inspired design fits with the notion of an integrated and participatory design process being important to design for sustainability and social responsibility Biomimicry and biophilia both resist the simplification of systems and form. Ecosystem-based biomimicry may use an understanding of the importance of complexity in the natural world to create multifunctional, robust, self organising systems, where emergent effects are possible. Biophilia discusses increasing complexity of form, particularly fractal patterns as being attractive to humans, because they mimic human cerebral organisation. Enhanced wellbeing has also been linked to the complexity and variability of a constantly changing natural environment through time.