Saturday, February 12, 2011

Michael Pawlyn: Using nature's genius in architecture, dematerialization, and biomimicry

What if you had a building, a greenhouse in a desert, that cooled itself without power but instead through water evaporation, grew plants, desalinated water, and produced enough desalinated pure water to water the ground around the greenhouse to convert desert into a green plant-filled landscape? Magical? That's what one man says can come from using biomimicry principles to design systems.

Biomimicry principles, he says, can produce systems which perhaps 1000x energy and resource savings. He points to animals for example spiders who can weave silk stronger than anything humans have been able to make, the closest requires special materials, high pressures, and produces loads of pollution, whereas the spiders do it at ambient temperature with the simplest of raw materials. Obviously, as he said, "we have a lot to learn".

The challenges we face to maintain our technological society requires

  • Radical increases in resource efficiency
  • Switching from linear systems to closed loop systems
  • Switch from a fossil fuel to solar energy economy

He claims that biomimicry can easily produce these changes.

The natural world around us is the result of billions of years of "research & development" by Nature.

Resource efficiency: Naturehas, through evolution, developed the most efficient shapes and chemistries.

Closed loop systems: In Nature, everything is reused. One creatures waste is another creatures food. "Waste" is the wrong way to look at the system.

Solar energy: Nature doesn't convert sunlight to electricity to use it. It just directly uses it as an analog process. Perhaps that's more efficient than conversion to electricity?