By Dr Abraham George
The need for finding long-term Sustainable design and development solutions; which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, that warrant continuing human existence and well-being is far more compelling in these days of depleting resources and catastrophic climate change, than in the former days. Site development and construction in early stages influence indigenous ecological characteristics. So too, the influx of construction equipment and personnel onto a building site and process of construction itself disrupt the local ecology. Manufacturing, procurement and processing of materials impact on the global as well as environments. Completed buildings, in operation, inflict sustained impacts on the environment, far and wide. Buildings increase the combined impact of built forms on the global ecosystem which is made up of inorganic substances, living organisms, and human beings.
During a building's actualization process, its construction affects the local and global environments by way of interconnected human activities and natural processes. In the beginning stages, site development and construction influence the local ecology and its characteristics. The influx of heavy construction equipments and personnel onto a building site and various processes involved, disrupt the local ecology to a considerable extent, though it may be improved as the construction gets expedited (3; 4). Needless to state that manufacture, transport and procurement of materials at various stages never fail to leave their impact on the global environment. Completed buildings require resources and energy in various forms for their useful performance. These, in turn, give rise to pollution and add to the mammoth problem of waste and environmental degradation which inflicts long-term impact on the environment. For instance, fuels and water used by its inhabitants produce toxic gases and sewage. Similarly, the process of extracting, refining, and transporting all the resources used in building operation and maintenance also has negative impacts on environment.
Global ecosystem is essentially made up of three group namely inorganic substances, living organisms, and human beings (5). Built forms contribute to the compounded impact of architecture on global ecosystems. It is therefore, important to study the impact of built forms on the totality of the environment, throughout various stages. Developments should be facilitated taking into consideration the entirety of the systems; resource, energy and transport etc and the myriad of population of the Nation, along with the specific characteristics of the region being developed.
Though, it is green and sustainable that are the catch words, an examination of the meaning of "sustainable" is required to avoid the avoidable confusion these words tend to generate, knowingly or otherwise (6). Sustainable architecture describes the fact that we receive what we need, from the nature. Sustainable architecture, then, is a farsighted positive response to awareness that everything we need is received from nature, not a prescriptive formula just for our survival (7). In other words, the goal of sustainable design is to find architectural solutions that warrant the well-being and coexistence of constituent groups (8). Therefore, a conceptual approach to framework is to be developed in order to meet the goal of well-being and coexistence in an effort to attain sustainability. Three fundamental concepts of the framework proposed are; Objectives, Strategies and Achievement. These relate to the environmental responsibilities, creating environmental awareness, explaining the building ecosystem and designing sustainable built forms for future (5).
WHY SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE
Sustainable architecture aims at the Protection of Resources - (PR), is the primary response to the awareness which influences all the following stages. Life Cycle Design - (LCD) and Livability Design- (LD) facilitate healthy habitation for humans. Protection of natural resources is proposed at the inception stage of building process, to be achieved through the reduction and reuse; direct reuse or recycling, of the physical resources involved (5). While Life Cycle Designs provide a methodology for analyzing the building process and its impact on the environment in an effort to decide on the effectiveness of designer's choices, Livability Design focuses on the interactions between human beings and the natural environment (9).
A sympathetic attitude from architects is extremely important as they interact primarily with users and environment in the establishment of a harmonious, healthy and sustainable built environment. Hence, understanding the above objectives which embodies a unique set of intentions is important to develop a more thorough understanding of the designer's positive interaction with the environment. The genesis of a project leading to its geographic location is one of the extremely important phases in the effort to reduce the load on infrastructure and consumption of resources and generation of pollution. Locating a sustainable built form far away from the supporting or depending facilities would generate unnecessary traffic perils associated with commutation which is avoidable. Moreover, developing countries like India has the major part of 60% of its population living in rural areas. Appropriately rated economic magnets like Special Economic Zone - (SEZ), IT parks, industries or the like may be effectively used in order to achieve balanced development in rural areas which would retard the unhealthy migration to already congested urban areas. Moreover, as a strategy, develop automobile free, 'walk to work' rural or peri-urban communities, self-sufficient in water and energy requirements, equipped with appropriate waste management systems. Such sustainable communities may be the hubs that are effectively connected to others by means of high speed, ecologically friendly mass transit systems.
PROTECTION OF RESOURCES - (PR)
It is the responsibility of an architect to reduce the use of nonrenewable resources in the construction and operation process of buildings in an effort to protect the resources and to preserve these for the future generations (10). Natural and manufactured resources, as is seen, are in a continuous flow in and out of any building which begins with the production of building materials, continues throughout the building's effective life sustaining intended functions. A critical examination of a building process reveals two essential streams of resource flow as shown in Figure 2.
Intake resources flow into the building as input to the building ecosystem while Outcome is resources that flow out of the building to the ecosystem (8). Strategies of protection of resources are multi thronged as given below.
It is achieved through the overall built form design, incorporating the principles of energy efficient design in orientation, organization of spaces, form of building, materials of construction particularly glazing, improved technology and intelligent building systems. The motto 'energy conserved is energy generated' is worth adopting. Further, the design of the built form shall consider integration of energy generation by way of photovoltaic panels, small wind turbines etc. Energy reduction may be achieved by the use of atriums, double roof, shorter span, external shading, terrace and vertical landscapes or even by the use of trombe walls. These consists of a vertical wall, built of a material such as stone or concrete with glazing on its outside. Sunlight incident on the glazing generates heat which is conducted through the wall also, warms up the air between the glazing and the Trombe wall surface. This warm air may be channeled for use depending on the heating needs of the built form.
Any building requires large quantities of water for various purposes that range from domestic uses to irrigation. Water requires treatments at various levels for specific uses. These treatments along with its transportation and delivery consume energy. Conservation of water is of increasing importance in these days of climate change and scarcity of water. It is the basic responsibility of every designer to address this issue seriously. Strategies for conservation of water may be made by the use of intelligent and improved water supply and sanitation systems, introduction of intelligent water management and control, change of life habits, and the use of intelligent design and detailing. Water recycling is important and every built form design shall include water recycling system in order to reduce consumption of treated water. Equally important is water harvesting from roof top and paved areas for the use for supplemental requirements. Every attempt shall be made to harness and treat roof water and its useful storage. Replenishing the underground water sources is vital to sustainability. Every attempt shall be made to increase percolation of rain water to the site soil. Landscaping schemes shall address this issue successfully by the integration of roof gardens, perforated pavements or even by the appropriate use of rain pits.
Material conservation focuses on every particular resource necessity for building construction and operation. Procurement, production and transportation of materials consume energy which is embodied in these. Major influx of building materials occurs during the construction stage. The waste generated by the construction and installation process is significant. Flow of materials continues even after construction that is used for maintenance, replacement and renovation. Consumer goods flow into the building to support human activities. All of the construction materials, in the end, are outcome raw materials or waste, either to be recycled or dumped in a landfill (11).
Environmental impacts of energy consumption by buildings occur primarily away from the building site, through mining or harvesting energy sources and generating power. The energy consumed by a building in the process of heating, cooling, lighting and equipment operation cannot be recovered and these gets added up. Strategies for material conservation include intelligent form design, stringent area and space requirement calculations, effective management and use of technology in the performance of intended functions. Further, every attempt shall be made to avoid wastefulness through efficient planning and detailing. It is worthwhile considering appropriate legislation for levying tax; luxury or green, on buildings that exceeds the material and energy limits prescribed.
LIFE CYCLE DESIGN (LCD)
As it is seen in Figure 3, the life cycle process of the building is a linear process consisting of three major stages (12). Each of these stages calls for sustainable approaches and strategies in an effort to achieve the goals envisioned.
Life cycle design (LCD) is not prescriptive, but suggestive in nature. However, LCD can contribute information and facilitate the effective decision making process. This approach accounts for the environmental consequences during the entire life cycle of construction materials; from procurement to return to nature (13). Life cycle of a building can be brought into three phases namely Pre-building, Building, and Post-building. The phases can be developed into LCD means that focus on minimizing the environmental impact of a building. Analysis of the building processes in each of these three phases throws light to the dynamics of design of the built form, its construction, operation, and effects of disposal from it to the ecosystem. Pre-building phase includes site selection, building design, and building material processes. However, this phase does not include the construction or installation of the building. Sustainable design approach considers meticulously the environmental consequences of construction materials, design of the structure, its orientation and impact on the landscape (14). The procurement of building materials impacts the environment in various ways; unscrupulous felling of trees leads to deforestation, mining mineral resources disturbs the nature and creates environmental pollution or the like. Building phase refers to the stage in the life cycle of a building when it is physically constructed and operated. In the sustainable design, the construction and operation processes shall embrace means to reduce environmental impact, resource consumption and sick-building syndrome. Post-building phase refers to the stage which begins when the useful life of a building has ended and its building materials are turned in to resources for other buildings or waste to be recycled or returned to nature. The strategy is to reduce construction waste by recycling and reusing buildings and building materials.
LIVABLE DESIGN - (LD)
Livable Design refers to the livability of all constituent spaces in built forms and spaces that form various groups in the global ecosystem (15). The livable design is concerned about the healthy coexistence among buildings, their environment and their respective occupants. Its broad objectives are intended to preserve the elements of the ecosystems in an effort to facilitate human survival. Built forms are intended to provide safe and healthy environments that are comfortable for their occupants which in turn enhance their satisfaction and productivity. Livable design objectives, therefore, could be evaluated under Generation and sustenance of natural conditions, Creation of satisfactory urban design and site, Generation of human comfort.
It is important to minimize the impact of a built form on its local ecosystem. The totality of neighborhoods, cities and entire geographic regions can reap the positive benefit from harmonious and complimentary planning on all fronts of resource, energy and pollution. Such a coordinated effort leads to an appropriate urban environment accommodating the specific needs of its context. Needless to state that sustainable design shall offer human comfort; both internal and external, in the interest of individuals and the nation at large. However, in post occupancy studies it is revealed that the benefits mostly are in terms of energy efficiency which is achieved through better awareness and understanding generated even in the operating and maintenance personnel.
NEED FOR ALTERNATIVE CONCEPTS
It is important to understand the limitation of traditional design models to generate unique built forms that meet the requirements of sustainable designs. Mostly, the inherent inability in the traditional models is manifest by way of stereotyped thinking which leads to no atypical designs. It is worthwhile to ponder the words of Albert Einstein "We cannot solve the problems by the same thinking that created them". Due to the lack of novelty in conceptualization and approach, such designs offer very little scope for optimization and lowering of energy and resource consumption. This problem of stereotype could be resolved creatively by a search for alternate models in designs. Nature, at this juncture, presents itself with harmonious designs that are sustainable, self-supporting and self organizing. Solutions that are found in the harmonious natural systems are always in evolution, perfecting and adapting to their contexts. Thus, what is seen today has been working over billions of years for evolving a reliable and sustainable model. Adoption of these evolved models in human designs would facilitate the making of future systems better sustainable; environmentally, ecologically and economically. Hence, Biomimicing reveals itself as a fine model to follow in the generation of alternative sustainable design solutions.
Biomimicry is a new science that studies nature's best ideas and principles and imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. In other words Biomimicry leads to innovations inspired by nature (19). Though some of nature's basic configurations and designs can be copied, most ideas from nature are best adapted when they serve as inspiration for human-made designs and productions (20). Adaptation of natural systems and organisms has facilitated better understanding of related phenomena and principles in the design of novel designs, devices with better features and capability. For example, the cell-based structure that is the building block of biological systems has the ability to grow with fault-tolerance and self-repair. With the adaptation of Biomimic structures based on nano-technologies, such designs and devices are possible in human -made designs, but not with traditional materials and processes. On a different level, there exists the evident, inspirational link between the design of tongs and bird's beaks. The same inspiration is evident in the foldable hand-held fan design and the peacock feather display; a magnificent attempt to impress the female.
One of the important features of nature is its evolution by responding to the system needs and generating solutions that work. Nature remains in an open, dynamic system establishing balance and continuous refinement in all its productions. Each of the successful natural creation that passes to the following generation has to withstand the test of survival, establishing the best fit for the following generation. Nature's laboratory through evolution generates information that is coded in genes and transferred to the following generation through the process of self replication. Nature thus, is perfecting models worth copying and inspiring novel engineering methods, processes, materials, algorithms, and designs. In a similar way production of designs and the elements and their organization in the design produced shall remain in a continuum of evolutionary changes, permitting adaptation and attainment of the best fit. Mimicking of nature may be done at various levels beginning with the full and complete appearance of the natural system to its every system detail. On the other extreme, natural models are interpreted and transformed in the making of human-made designs. Such mimicking of life-systems demands the full capacity and intelligence of humans.
PRINCIPLE OF 3Ms
Accept nature as the standard and imitate its system designs, processes and strategies at any level as deem fit, to live sustainably. Investigations of such natural systems reveal the details of system composition and their organization at the general level and the details of elements, processes and strategies at the specific level. Biomimic designer has the freedom of choice to operate at the level of optimum advantage, in tune with the technological capabilities and resources available.
Nature is the finest teacher and mentor for the designers of all the times. Genius designers like Leonardo da Vinci, mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci to architect F. L. Wright have looked to nature for inspiration, ordering and performance of their productions (21). Learning from the vast 3.85 billion years of research experience gained through the nature's lab and evolutionary process would immensely benefit the future designers (22). One has to be, therefore, intelligent enough to understand, interpret and adopt the nature's time-tested, creative and sustainable solutions and ordered processes for sustainability individual built forms or in collective urban forms.
Biomimic designers view nature as an ecological and sustainable standard and accept what it does. Nature with its organisms maintains sustainability and survival through constant adaptation and satisfying of just needs without causing congestion and contamination. Unlike organisms, humans plunder the nature for pleasure and satisfy their greed, causing imbalance and violent repercussions at times. Human adaptations rarely follow biological laws; instead, attempt to change the very constraints that force their own adaptation. Hence, the antithesis of biological laws is prescribed in the industrial, financial and civil systems. It is worthwhile to recall the statement of Mahatma Gandhi "The nature has enough to satisfy our need but not greed". It is therefore, imperative for a Biomimic designer to comply with nature's standards in the maintenance of sustainability and adapt to the forces of natural transformation rather than aggressive living.
Biomimic designs imitate life systems that learn, grow and adapt incorporating continuous feedback, inheriting innovation and refinement for effecting evolution and the best fit.
SEVEN POINT STRATEGY
Optimize rather than maximize
Natural systems are programmed to optimize, never maximize their system output. Every natural system and corresponding elements are designed to be multifunctional in design thus enhancing versatility of design and avoid multiplying need for specifics. A visible example is human hand. Versatility further, reduces consumption of resources and inconveniences. Further natural systems exhibits extreme 'form to function' fit.
Natural systems are self reliant with no need for dependence at all levels of production consumption and disposal. Natural system is equipped for recycling all materials on expiry of useful life and turns waste to food. On the contrary, waste production is inherent to all human productions chocking every disposal system. Adopting the natural position of 'waste to useful stuff' would inspire Biomimic designers to generate individual or collective built forms that would facilitate useful spaces that are re-transformable and avoid the need for fresh raw materials, other resources and energy. A Biomimic design shall therefore, enable independent performance, foster cooperative relationships and facilitate retransformation. Often built forms meets with the need for self organizing and remain in balance. A simple example is a corporate building designed for a specific set of functions faces the need to get transformed to house altogether different set of functions and users due to changes in economy or other formative forces in order to stay fit. If a built form is designed to be rigid without any scope for readjustment in an effort to be transformed in self organization, it leads to unfit and extinction. Cases of demolition of high-rise apartment buildings that fail to generate acceptable living conditions within and exterior environments endorse the necessity for self organization and retransformation when situations call for it in an effort to maintain balance and harmony (23) (24).
Manufactures own needs
Traditional models do consume but never produce for the needs it has; be it energy or any other resource. Whereas, through Biomimic designs many if not all of the needs of a built form may be generated fully or partially. Power for example, to be generated by alternate means by creatively using wind, sun or even geothermal, multiple use, involvement of human and animal power or the like in an effort to meet the built form needs. A built form in isolation could be used to tap the wind energy by way of its aerodynamic design and integrated wind turbines. Similarly, built forms could be designed meticulously to tap solar energy; both passive and active, through passive and appropriate courtyard designs or photovoltaic integrated designs. Developments in material science and photovoltaic designs present the designers with transparent thin film options amounting to sustainable and creative built forms. At city level collective built forms of cities could be creatively composed to generate self shading, light and ventilation within and around with appropriate reradiation specified, in an effort to counter the increased energy demand resulting from heat island formation and ill-lit designs.
Imbibing the lesson of consuming what is made by own, locally not brought from elsewhere, Biomimic designers have to begin with the use of locally available and self generated resources, rather than using those brought from afar, at higher cost and energy consumption. Preferring to be in harmony with nature and the context of design would immensely benefit Biomimic designs.
Resourceful and opportunistic
Biomimic designs shall derive its uniqueness and strength from shape rather than the material, and building from the bottom-up. While using simple and common building blocks, creatively explore the possibilities inherent in forms rather than simply bogged-down with materiality and available technology. It simply means choosing the 3D form advantage over 2D traditional models, beginning with the preference for frames over post and lintel. Biomimic designs shall prove to be resourceful and creative naturally in diminishing consumption and enhancing self generation, even by reducing need exercising preference to intelligent built forms.
Cyclical processes over linear
Traditional models of designs are inherently linear and additive in nature. Linear additive models have proved to be ineffective with larger consumption and wastage of resources at all stages of built forms, beginning with erection through operation and maintenance, leaving behind wastage and byproducts. On the contrary, cyclic processes tend to be inherently effective and efficient at all levels proving to be naturally sustainable as in the example of falling leaves turned in to fertilizers for the tree through biological involvement.
In the evolutionary Biomimic designing feedback loops are inevitable. These loops are to be effectively incorporated in the continuous refinement of the process resulting in better designs. In doing so the natural cycles; Carbon cycle, Water cycle and Seasons, are to be honoured for maintaining sustainability.
Durable and Tough
Biomimic designs are to be as durable and tough in tune with the diverse natural law to be 'operating at low-risk' as in the preference for a forest against a single agricultural crop. In such a rugged system each of its components systems shall be complimenting one another.
Decentralized and distributed
Nature operates at surplus mode having back-up maintained operational and maintains itself even in the failure of a component system. Multi-supported design increases the operational reliability and earns credibility.
BIOMIMIC THOUGHT PROCESS
- Ieentify the real
do you want to "do" (not "make)" Be open, rational and creative. Learn
inquisitiveness from kitten!
the functions / purpose
nature does perform function?
for a walk outside and observe and brainstorm. Look for the precious stones!
patterns and principles work for your problem? Be creative and prudent.
and Re-Imagine the design deeper and rigorous each time with holistic thinking
in order to solve the entire problem. It might be necessary to redefine to
solve the problem as a whole, not in parts.
Formula for sustainable future
Intellectual Capital + Nature's Genius = Innovative, Sustainable solutions
If we are limited, it is by our own dreams! Therefore, dream great and be a B2; Beautiful Biomimic.
Concepts and strategies aim to generate sustainable architecture which is the need of the hour and vital to the existence of life forms on earth. There exists confusion from multiple mushrooming agencies and competing visions trying to define and establish what ecologically sustainable architecture is, especially of its scope, application and end result. The scientific and technical complexity involved along with the commercial and political interests amalgamated to its objectives make 'defining sustainable architecture' a delicate issue. These approaches lack a real concern for the unique survival and special needs of the context to which such prescriptions are applied. Further, it is important to understand the limitation of traditional design models and look for better alternatives including Biomimicry.
Sustainable architecture can be achieved primarily by reducing the consumption of materials, energy requirement involved both directly and indirectly and the generation pollution. Space and area optimization warrant an effective strategy in the achievement of reduction of the need which lowers the generation of pollution. Architects have a greater role to play at this important issue. Engineers have an equally important role in the design and selection of optimized systems; mechanical, electrical, transport and disposal, which are vital for the efficient performance of the built forms.
It is important to consider necessary legislation to impose green tax on buildings that exceed the limits of material and waste generation; to be stipulated for unit area of foot print on site. Further, those designs that comply with the norms shall be encouraged.
Added thrust is to be exercised in regard to the generation of environmental awareness and the design detailing and practice for sustainability in order to achieve this vital responsibility we owe to the posterity and ourselves. Education in architecture and allied fields shall impart rigor and soundness to design professionals engaged in the design, production, operation and reuse of built forms (15). It is also important to accept the relationships and interconnectedness within the ecosystem and the built forms that designers develop. It is the vital responsibility of architects to find creative design solutions that facilitate well-being and harmonious coexistence of organic and inorganic groups (25).
There is inherent inability in the traditional models and stereotyped thinking leads to no atypical designs. The problem of stereotype could be resolved creatively by alternate models wherein mimicking natural systems holds great potential. Natural systems are always in evolution, perfecting and adapting to their contexts over billions of years. Adopting the natural models through Biomimicing facilitate the making of future systems better sustainable. The principle of 3M and the Seven-point strategy is elucidated in generating Biomimic designs. Further, the Biomimic thought process is illustrated in evolving a formula for sustainable future.
It is right time that the Government sets-up a Project Sustainability Authority for both public and private sector projects in the wake of the numerous agencies mushrooming with the sustainability and green agendas with no eye for the real needs and special nature of developing nations like India.
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