Thinking green and conserving energy are the new hot topics in interior design these days. It’s refreshing to note that many homeowners are thinking creatively about ways to keep green philosophies in our home. I recently learned of a new technique called biomimicry. At first this word sounds ominous, yet after close inspection I realize it is a fancy word for approaching design in ways that mimic how nature organically protects itself in the environment, conserves energy and acts efficiently. It is rare to see a forest floor polluted by nature. Because Mother Nature has many built-in systems that conserve energy and utilize waste, humans can learn much from tapping into these strategies. When looking at how a forest floor stays miraculously clean, especially considering the complicated eco-system at work, it is awe-inspiring. Many scientists, environmentalists and companies have been exploring these principles in order to use similar methods in the interior design industry.
Along with 19 other designers from around the country, I was fortunate to be invited by award-winning faucet company Brizo to attend a three-day “creative think tank” project. As part of a series of events, we listened to a symposium given by renowned San Francisco architect Sean Culman, who introduced me to this growing movement. Cullen explained how biomimicry takes cues from nature, replicating many of the strategies and designs. He gave examples of how animals and nature rid themselves of extra work and waste, detailing a recent project where scientists studied how mussels cling to rocks in order to learn about water resistance and bonding agents. Many companies have recently tapped into the genius of nature’s inventions, from the efficiency of the spiral shape of the nautilus shell in order to make pumps and fans, to paint companies modeling their water-resistant paint on the lotus flower’s natural waterproof façade. According to Cullen, during the Machine Age and the Industrial Revolution our society became out of touch with the basic ways in which nature plays an important role in our lives. In the recently-published book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, author Janine Benyus writes about how valuable it is to emulate Mother Nature’s time-tested patterns and systems. Benyus notes how the American Indians used many of these philosophies in their rituals and traditions. Her story prompted many to look at these principles and incorporate them into the home.
At the end of our three-day barrage of creative inspiration, Brizo presented us with a real-life challenge: to design a bathroom utilizing these concepts. We worked in groups and brainstormed floor plans, elevations and product specifications. We produced an entire plan, complete with a detailed design board. We were excited to dream up creative ways to mimic nature’s efficient systems to create an aesthetically beautiful bathroom that worked well. Naming our project Taizen, which means “calm” in Japanese, we came up with interesting ideas for the bathroom, such as naturally self-cleaning wall tiles with a slight tooth to eliminate unnecessary chemicals for cleaning. We instituted a water filtration system that would recycle some of the gray water to a rooftop cooperative garden. This project certainly got me thinking, and today as I walked along Maidstone Beach in Springs, combing the rocky terrain for seashells, I looked upon these beauties with a new set of eyes. My son plucked a perfect pink shell with deep ridges off the sandy floor and lifted it up to the sunlight. I marveled at its hearty surface. I thought about how well this exquisitely intact shell had fared after most likely being tumbled along the ocean floor. There are endless applications for using biomimicry in our homes, and now armed with this new philosophy, I headed home with a fresh collection of shells and many ideas churning. [/expand]