No matter how far you travel, no matter in which direction you point, there is nowhere on Earth that remains free from the traces of human activity. The chemical and biological signatures of our species are everywhere. Transported around the globe by fierce atmospheric winds, relentless ocean currents, and the capacious cargo-holds of millions of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, nowhere on Earth is free from humanity’s imprint. Pristine nature has permanently blinked out of existence. It is not just that human activities have stained every corner of the entire planet. The simultaneous arrival of a range of powerful new technologies are starting to signal a potential takeover of Earth’s most basic operations by its most audacious species
In the first decade of the 21st century and beyond, the forces that prompted industrialization and digitization persist, but a new, more urgent, and arguably longer-term need has arisen that calls for a new revolution—the requirement for ecologically sound practices in design that guide scarce resource management, particularly in manufacturing and building. Abundant evidence makes plain that the pace of world economic development in its current form, relying on the rapid consumption of natural resources (including fossil fuels), trespasses biophysical boundaries and cannot be maintained.
Buildings are no more meant to be singular or fixed bodies but have to be understood as complex energy and material systems that are a part of the environment of other active systems. Accepting the certain, and the change brought about by economic, social and technologic drivers, we must now realize that buildings in general and offices and commercial buildings specifically, of today will soon become a liability of tomorrow (the near future), as soon as commercial enterprises start leasing out spaces for gatherings of people rather than corporate bodies having dedicated buildings to house their soon to be virtual staff. Furthermore increasing evidence suggests that attractiveness is a key element in how the built environment affects our wellbeing. In conjunction with increased precision in defining design concepts, the neuroscience of architecture is well positioned to study the biology of architectural beauty.
Perceiving the future further research into the engineering of advanced intelligent materials and technologies is essential since it could be the next wave in the future of architecture. With the advent of technology, our buildings today are getting more and more responsive to human needs. Not only are the devices (automation / sensory based) making them easier to use and function, but also giving contemporary architecture an image of sophistication and high-tech look. Therefore, it is imperative that future studies and research are carried out in the fields of artificial intelligence, information technology, economics, climatic study, material science, environmental engineering and biomimetic engineering.
Within this pursuit, working to achieve enhanced ecological performance through integration with natural systems, designers are turning to biologists for their expertise and guidance. Researchers and designers are significantly inspired by animals’, plants’, or microorganisms’ innovative biological systems (functions, structures, and processes) in order to design bio-inspired materials for increasing efficiency of the buildings.
Bio-inspired materials offer a wide range of applications in architecture and building design.
There is no line between material and structure in nature as the essence of any material (e.g., bone, collagen, wood) is the microscopic structure and it is almost impossible to differentiate structure and material in natural organisms. Materials in nature are used efficiently in complicated forms. Imitating this process, rapid prototyping in architecture emulates the layer by layer deposition of materials in a hierarchical structure to improve materials’ efficiency. Created surfaces using rapid prototyping manufacturing technology can also be regarded as bio-inspired materials.
Sometimes natural organisms are utilized in building envelopes without being even combined with other materials including perhaps artificial polymers during the manufacturing process. For example, in some biological building envelopes, natural materials improve the filtration/extraction process through which pollutant and volatile compounds are sucked out leaving the interior spaces with purified air.
As biomimicry (imitating organisms’ functions, structures, and processes) mainly focuses at the micro- and macroscale levels of imitation, nanotechnology can also be considered as a type of biomimetic design method focusing at nanoscale level of imitation. Bio-inspired nanostructured materials are founded as nanocomposites (a mixture of conventional materials with nanomaterials) or as nano-engineered materials both structurally modified at nanoscale level. Macro-, micro-, or nano-scales of imitation ultimately contribute to the energy efficiency of buildings and environmental-friendly construction.
Advanced intelligent materials incorporate the notion of information as well as physical indexes such as strength and durability. This higher level function or intelligence is achieved through the systematic corporation of various individual functions. As a result, intelligent materials exhibit a self-control capability whereby they are not only able to sense and respond to various external stimuli but conduct this response in a regulated manner. This inherent intelligent adaptability of natural materials and states that their outstanding mechanical properties are a consequence of their highly organized hierarchical structure, which is omnipresent at all levels (length scales) of the material.
According to different stimulus-response, advanced intelligent materials are able to reversibly change their properties. All advanced intelligent materials can be grouped into three type’s characteristics; property changing materials, energy exchanging material and material exchanging (Discrete size/location –Reversibility).
Whether a molecule, a material, a composite, an assembly, or a system, the five fundamental characteristics distinguishing an advanced intelligent material from the more traditional materials used in architecture are defined as follows:
- Immediacy: they respond in real time;
- Transiency: they respond to more than one environmental state;
- Self -actuation: intelligence is internal to rather than external to the “material”;
- Selectivity: their response is discrete and predictable;
- Directness: the response is local to activating event.
Even though nearly all intelligent mechanisms in building design such as selfhealing, self-repairing, self-cleaning, self-assembly, and intelligent movement require electrical power for actuation or sensing, the amount of energy consumed for exchanging energy from one form to another as a typical function of smart technologies is often more efficient than conventional technologies.
Natural organisms sense and respond to environmental stimuli. The biological membrane of living cells is the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known living organisms which responds to environmental stresses through using three main components: a sensor, a controller, and an actuator. Actuators are responsible for producing mechanical effects, while sensors monitor temperatures, humidity, and movement.
In buildings, advanced intelligent materials emulate the intelligent response processes in nature. Shape-changing materials in plants have inspired synthetic materials recently used in sun-harvesting solar panels and reactive textiles. The possible application of advanced intelligent materials in architecture can be seen either in sensors or actuators or as no-tech/low-tech hydromorphic materials.
The scale and scope of human activity and projected changes in climate, economic demand, urbanization, and access to resources over the next several decades will necessitate new standards of energy efficiency, waste elimination, and biodiversity protection. In this challenge learning form nature accounts for an effective strategy for designing innovative buildings. Integrating this biomimicry strategy into the design process generates benefits for both designers and the natural environment, as bio-inspired designs can contribute to sustainability. Mimicking nature, various biomimetic approaches have produced environmentally friendly, innovative, smart, or advanced intelligent materials for buildings.
The twenty-first century has ushered in a period of pressing threats to the environment, rising energy costs, and a firming resolve that sustainable architectural design can yield dramatic gains in long-term resource preservation and overall quality of life. Supporting all of this is the growing portfolio of clean technology products and processes that not only advance sustainable ideas but do so profitably. Advanced intelligent materials technology is poised to propel sustainability to new levels.