Resources for Parents

Biomimicry-Inspired Designing

Designers are continually looking for new and innovative ways to create beautiful, livable spaces that are environmentally responsible and, more recently, resilient to disturbances. Increasingly, designers on the leading edge are looking to nature for this inspiration, including HOK, Grimshaw and Exploration Architecture to name a few. Learn how biomimicry can contribute to the sustainability and resilience of the built environment in this short introductory video, and sign up for a Chicago Biomimicry Immersion through Prairie Lab to learn more!

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Surprising New Uses for Mushrooms, from Houses to Packaging

You probably didn’t know mushrooms could be used to construct buildings and cure diseases. Mushrooms are being tested in innovative and imaginative ways to help society. Engineers, medical researchers, and designers are utilizing the natural abilities of various fungi for antibiotics, building materials, water filtration, toxic waste cleanup, pest abatement, textiles, and other purposes.

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Solutions to Move Us from Industrial Age to Ecological Age

Take a look at this presentation from VELUX Daylight Symposium 2013 in Copenhagen about ways of using biomimicry in architectural designing. Michael Pawling thinks Biomimicry is going to be one of most important source of solutions that will allow us to move from the industrial age to the ecological age of humankind in the future.

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How to Think Like an Architect

Santa Barbara-based architect Barry Berkus demonstrates how nature can inspire design. This video short captures the raw beginnings of the thought process that goes into creating an architectural form out of an inspired piece.

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Can Mushrooms Save the Bees?

One of the world’s most important pollinators is under attack. Bees are being threatened to extinction by the spread of viruses, but mycologist Paul Stamets has found a revolutionary and natural solution: mushrooms. Stamets shares how fungus extract can be used as medicine for bees to help save their dying colonies in a way that connects us back to the Earth. (Source:

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3D Ocean Farming – Bren Smith

Climate change is not just about conservation, stopping pipelines and building new energy systems; it’s about creating radical new visions of our collective future. 3D Ocean Farming cultivate crops, including kelp and shellfish, that are sustainable to grow, affordable to eat and regenerative for local ecosystems, as “climate cuisine” foods become more crucial to our global diet.

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Hieroglyphic Stairway – Drew Dellinger

As the need for climate action grows more dire, poet and activist Drew Dellinger demands environmental justice for those who come after us. His voice echoes the question asked by his great-great-grandchildren in his dreams: “What did you do while the Earth was unraveling?” This call for personal accountability reminds us that we are in control of the legacy we tell them.

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Sequestering Carbon Dioxide with Micorrhyzal Fungi

Carbon sequestration can be defined as the net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere into long-lived pools of carbon. As trees age, they allocate less carbon to root fungi, yet residues from old, dead fungi hang on to carbon more tightly than do dead needles and wood in the soil. Other studies, however, suggest that mycorrhizal fungi decompose organic matter in the soil, thereby releasing carbon

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Nano Filter, Graphene Coated Sand for Water Purification

Nano Filter is an architectural device testing graphene coated sand for water purification in one of the most polluted cities in the world: Lanzhou in China.  The project has been done in collaboration with the Nano-Science Centre in Copengahen  and tested on-site on the expedition.

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Living Filtration System – Biomimicry Global Design Challenge 2015

The earthworm’s digestive system and the human small intestine inspired this team from University of Oregon to develop a biomimetic drainage system that keeps nutrients in the soil rather than leaving the field in runoff. After farmers apply fertilizer, nutrients often enter the surrounding water system through surface runoff or by leaching through the soil into the ground water. This process leads to nutrient accumulation in nearby lakes and streams which then concentrates in rivers like the Mississippi, and is deposited in the Gulf of Mexico and other estuaries.

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The Living Filtration System is an alternative drainage tiling system that was designed to serve as a catalyst for changing current farming techniques. The team’s design captures nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients at the source of application in farm fields, using an overlapping series of four tubes. The first layer is a wood-plastic composite that mimics the curves of the human small intestine to slow water flow, and the second, carbon-based, layer uses farm waste like corn husks and wood debris to filter out nutrients from runoff, just like the way earthworms filter nutrients from the soil. The next two layers capture nutrients and enable beneficial relationships to develop between soil microbes and plant roots. By keeping the nutrients from leaching out of the soil, the LFS system not only cleans the water leaving the fields, but also decreases the amount of fertilizer needed and improves soil health over time.

Mangrove Still – Biomimicry Global Design Challenge 2015

This Italian team looked to mangroves and salt marshes for inspiration to address land degradation and water scarcity in coastal areas. Their design is a desalinating solar still that is optimized to produce fresh water for irrigation and costs five times less than traditional solar stills. The team’s goal was to develop a more sustainable, lower-cost way to produce fresh water in arid/semi-arid coastal areas, since current technologies for desalinating seawater are expensive, especially to generate enough water to irrigate coastal farmlands. To inform their design, the team looked at mangroves and salt marshes to learn about how these pioneering species establish themselves in coastal areas, then pave the way for other species to appear. They envision that a network of Mangrove Stills installed in a degraded, arid area could produce enough water revitalize the land and kick off a self-perpetuating microclimate. The Mangrove Still’s design optimizes light capture, surface to volume ratio, and thermoregulation to create a lower-cost and efficient method of desalinating seawater, built with recyclable, reusable materials. The still can be assembled quickly and utilized for emergency response to provide drinking water or treating polluted water.

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Jube – Biomimicry Global Design Challenge 2015

Edible insects may be one of the answers to our global food crisis. They are high in protein and rich in essential micronutrients, such as iron and zinc. They also don’t need as much space as livestock, emit lower levels of greenhouse gases, and have an extremely high feed conversion rate. The BioX team from Thailand developed Jube, a bio-inspired chamber for capturing edible insects, the food of the future. After studying a range of carnivorous plants, the team decided to base their design on the Genlisea violacea “lobster-pot trap.” This is a Y-shaped modified leaf chamber that is easy to enter, but not to exit due to its inward-pointing hair, which force the prey to move in a particular direction. To use Jube, the user puts insect food into the bottom part of the device to lure the insects. Once the insects follow the odor and step into Jube, they can’t turn back. This device promotes a more sustainable way to incorporate protein and nutrients into the world’s diet by offering an insect-capturing device that is unique and beautifully crafted.

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BioNurse – Biomimicry Global Design Challenge 2015

A team from the Ceres Regional Center for Fruit and Vegetable Innovation in Chile has created a new way to not only help new seedlings grow, but restore degraded soils back to health. The BioNurse returns vitality to the soil by improving conditions for seedlings and exposing them to a mix of nutrients, microbiology and hygroscopic components. It is fabricated with natural fibers and biodegrades after one season. The plants growing from it will be capable of reproducing the same conditions in a natural way and, after two or three seasons, the soil will be productive again. For the BioNurse, the team was inspired by the way that hardy “nurse” plants establish themselves in degraded soils and pave the way for new plant species to grow. With 25% of the world’s soils degraded, this innovation provides a way to grow and protect new plants and ensure that the soil can be regenerated to feed our growing population.

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Balcony Cultivator – Biomimicry Global Design Challenge 2015

A team from the Technical University in Zvolen, Slovakia devised a self-sustaining system to help city-dwellers grow their own organic food, right on their balconies. In many Central European cities, organic food is expensive and hard to find and most residents don’t have access to yards or gardens to grow their own produce. Team Five4Life developed the Balcony Cultivator to enable anyone to grow healthy food, without being a gardening expert. The Balcony Cultivator design was inspired by the ability of some lizard species living in arid areas to collect water and moisture with their skin. The Balcony Cultivator draws moisture from a composting feature at the bottom of the device, where it develops into condensation in the top “cupola” of the design. The water then is directed to the plants’ roots via channels (or microstructures) on the inside of the cupola that are designed to mimic a lizard’s scales. Not only does this device provide a way to grow food for those without access to green space, but it offers an alternative growing solution for drought-prone areas.

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Hexagro – Biomimicry Global Design Challenge 2015

Team Hexagro from Italy has created a “groundless” growing system that gives people the opportunity to grow healthy food on a small footprint. Hydroponic systems often use synthetic materials and tend to work as closed systems. In comparison, Hexagro is made of recyclable, biodegradable materials and has a unique, hexagonal shape that was inspired by geometric patterns found in nature. Hexagro is modular and can adapt easily to a range of urban spaces. Four times more efficient than traditional farming techniques, Hexagro’s modular tree can produce a total of 342 lettuce plants per 2 square meters in comparison to traditional ground farming, which can produce 80 lettuce plants per 2 square meters. Its automatic irrigation system provides programmed cycles that adapt to the time of the day and season, preventing plants from drying or being overfed by nutrients. A digital application will be developed in order to connect the system to smartphones.

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Biomimicry Global Design Challenge 2015 – HIPS

This team from South Africa has designed a peer-to-peer networking app called HIPS whose algorithm mimics the way that large collectives in nature, such as a flock of birds or a school of fish, function. The goal is to enable small scale intensive food production systems by providing a dynamically-distributed, peer-to-peer tool to help manage and coordinate their efforts. First, the app will enable food producers to connect with other producers (permaculture, organic, biodynamic – urban or rural) to create a local swarm in which resources can be shared and local exchanges and transactions are conducted. Next, the app connects local swarms with each other to create a regional swarm and establish a produce hub. Finally, it records surplus produce for sale and, once sold, enables coordination with other swarms and members to facilitate distribution logistics. This software facilitates and optimises logistics, provides a medium for fair exchange of value, and provides incentives to food producers to employ best practices in a resilient, distributed value network comprised of collectives of autonomous food producers.

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Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System – Biomimicry Global Design Challenge 2015

This team, based in Michigan and Central America, has created a small aquaponics system that is designed for radical affordability. The Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System helps subsistence farmers grow better food sustainably (using less space, less water, and no chemicals), improve nutrition, and generate income. Aquaponics is the co-culture of fish and vegetables in a recirculating biofilter-based system. Fish waste feeds the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. This symbiotic relationship allows more food to be grown in a smaller area and with less water than traditional aquaculture or horticulture can support. The design team previously prototyped two aquaponic systems for use in rural Central America, but wanted to find a way to dramatically reduce the cost. Applying lessons from nature, they refined their design to reduce structural mass and materials by employing an inflatable ring, The Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System is a solar-powered aquaponics system capable of producing at minimum 200 pounds of Tilapia and 200 pounds of tomatoes or other vegetables annually. With a projected retail price of $100, and a business model that provides low-interest purchasing credit, the system is radically affordable and accessible.

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