Using Nature as a Metaphor for Solving Humanity’s Problems

There are many examples where nature has solved problems in a way that might provide ideas for solving humanity’s economic, environmental and social challenges. One very popular example in architecture is how termites develop their living environment to include “air conditioning” by virtue of structural design. Here is a video of that solution:

Termite World – Life in the Undergrowth – BBC Attenborough


As you saw in this video, the termites found a way to solve their problem of too much heat emanating from their underground home.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if architects could capitalize on such ideas to build even better buildings that require less energy?!  Well, that is exactly what they are doing.  For more information on how nature can inform architectural practices, see the article: Architecture Lessons from Nature, Design researchers find some fascinating architectural and engineering principles in Nature

“For those who know where to look, biomimetically inspired products can be found in almost every corner of the marketplace, from medicine to transportation. But where the emerging field has the potential for the greatest impacts, according to advocates and practitioners, is in changing the way we think about our built environment—not only in designing individual building products, but in conceiving of entire communities as biomimetic systems, not to mention businesses, government bodies and other systems.” – Evolution Meets Creation by Sarah Stroud

This use of nature as a metaphor or analogy to help humans solve their problems is actually a burgeoning field within the sustainability movement.   This field is called Biomimicry.  The Biomimcry Guild is cataloging nature’s solutions and helping businesses and non-profits innovate products and processes based on nature’s solutions. 

“Biomimicry is a design discipline that seeks sustainable and life-friendly solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested ideas. Observing how a 45 ton humpback whale jumps has revolutionised turbines and propellors. Understanding how insects gather moisture in the desert is helping combat drought. Analysing spiders’ has led to stronger, lighter and more durable fabrics.

Biomimics around the world are learning to adhere like a gecko, streamline car bodies like a boxfish, cool buildings like a termite, make fiber optics like a sea sponge, and run a business like a redwood forest.” Heritage Council Workshop Flyer

Here are some examples as discussed by Janine Benyus in this video: Biomimicry in action

For more information on biomimicry: