The Biomimicry Manual: What can the honeybee teach a designer?

March 16, 2017 by  
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What exactly is biomimicry ? I think of it as a way of unlocking a whole world of super-powers for humanity. It is literally the next stage of human evolution. Leonardo DaVinci himself said, “Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain.” Maybe we’ve been studying the wrong master, trying to make a living on this planet in ways that will ultimately deplete us all. That’s certainly the case with humans and honeybees . Yes, humans love honey, and the busy hum of bees in the garden is a sound that gives us peace on a warm day. But we have much more to learn from them. Find out the lessons they have to teach in today’s entry of The Biomimicry Manual ! Great designers know that people feel good when they are surrounded by plants and other living things. Gardens are good for the soul. That’s ‘biophilia.’ Nature makes us happy. We love using ‘organic’ raw materials, like honey and beeswax, because they are useful and renewable, pleasing and non-toxic. They won’t sit in a landfill for the next thousand years like yesterday’s plastic. The Earth will recycle them. That’s ‘bio-utilization,’ using nature because it’s just good stuff. Our herds of goats and sheep, the crop varieties we’ve grown and selected for millennia because they taste the way we want, and even the family dog are ‘bio-assistants.’ They help us make and do the things we need. Honeybees, for instance, are not ‘wild animals,’ but domestic helpers. We have shaped their evolution to suit ourselves. Biomimicry is a little different. It only “uses” life’s ideas. It’s when you have a problem, and you ask, “how other living creatures solving it?” Instead of harvesting that creature or its by-products, you copy the idea itself and make it anew, make it human. Every plant and animal , fungus, and bacteria has a whole genome worth of time-tested, sustainable ideas to inspire us. That’s a lot of superpowers. Myself, I like bioinspiration of all kinds. John Todd ‘s ‘ Living Machines ‘, for instance, do a little of everything: biophilia, bio-utilization, bio-assistance, and biomimicry. He uses a pleasing array of living plants and bacteria (both domestic and wild) to imitate the way a natural wetland ecosystems works, filtering and treating sewage in the process. Believe it or not, a bee has to eat eight pounds of honey to make a single pound of wax to safely store her honey and larvae in. It’s an expensive proposition, and it has to be done efficiently. The ancient Greeks understood that modular hexagonal honeycomb makes the most storage possible with the least amount of material. Architects and designers are tapping this for all sorts of applications. Panelite , in New York, offers hexagonal ClearShade insulating glass. It passively regulates heat, while still letting in lots of light. The Sinosteel skyscraper in Tianjin, China uses honeycomb windows the same way. Our honeybee has other brilliant design ideas as well. For instance, her 300 degree field of vision literally gives her eyes in the back of her head. Nissan Motors is working on a laser range finder inspired by these curved, compound eyes, which will detect and avert potential collisions. German researchers are designing a honeybee-inspired wide-angle lens for aerial drones, while other researchers are using their navigation tricks to optimize GPS and tracking systems. We know that it’s physically impossible for bumblebees to fly. And yet they do, with incredible efficiency and maneuverability. So what are we missing? We aren’t completely sure, but one thing they have is the ability to zip and unzip their two-part wings for flight and landing. What if our airplanes could do that? Wouldn’t that save space on aircraft carriers and in busy airports? And when we say something is “the bees’ knees,” it’s even better than we thought. Insect joints contain ‘resilin,’ a springy protein. Turns out to be the most efficient elastic known, dramatically better than natural or synthetic rubber. With it, bees can flap their wings a thousand times a minute, and fleas can jump one hundred times their body length. An Australian government research group has mimicked this “near-perfect” rubber, creating 98% bounce back. That’s practically a perpetual-motion machine! These examples are taken from Jay Harman’s new book, The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and how Nature is Inspiring Innovation . There are so many good ideas in nature, it boggles the mind, And that’s just the bees! There is literally an infinite world of time-tested, sustainable ideas to learn from. And if we get “buzz-y” studying them, we can unlock a whole new set of super-powers to take us into the future. + The Biomimicry Manual  An evolutionary biologist, writer, sustainability expert, and passionate biomimicry professional in the  Biomimicry 3.8 BPro certification program , Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker blogs at  BioInspired Ink  and serves as Content Developer for the  California Association of Museums ‘ Green Museums Initiative. She is working on a book about organizational transformation inspired by nature.

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The Biomimicry Manual: What can the honeybee teach a designer?

Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents

March 15, 2017 by  
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Cacti may not excite a lot of people, but in Taiwan the plant is so highly respected the island community of Penghu built the Qingwan Cactus Park to celebrate its existence. The beautiful complex was created by converting an old military complex into various greenhouses that store a staggering variety of cacti in all shapes and sizes. To protect the site and the plants for the strong winds associated with monsoon season, the project implemented a number of resilient features around the park. Located in the Qingwan district of Penghu’s Fongguei Peninsula, the site’s old military structures were built during the Japanese Colonial Era. Abandoned for years, the site became covered with cactuses and white popinac. Cacti thrive on the island’s dry, windy climate because they are resistant to drought, strong winds and high salinity in the soil. To protect the beloved cactus population , the locals decided to give the existing buildings a thorough facelift in order to create a protected area for the plants to thrive. Related: Cactus Gum Can Purify Water Cheaply and Effectively At the heart of the complex is the teak and glass dome shaped like a cactus that “glows” at night. This main building, along with the other refurbished structures, was constructed to make as little impact on the surrounding basaltic landscape as possible. A teak wood frame and basaltic masonry walls support the dome’s large prismatic windows that provide ventilation and light on the interior. The complex consists of various greenhouses and an artists village, all surrounded by a “green belt” that connects the buildings and leads out to hiking and biking paths along the coastline. Although the cactus plant is known for its ability to thrive in dry climates, a rainwater conservation basin collects rainwater for irrigation and cleaning purposes. To protect the complex and the plants from the island’s strong winds, which carry salt that interferes with plant growth, numerous landscape architecture features were implemented in the complex.  Various windbreaking earth berms, inspired by the same design used by local farmers, form a protective barrier around the site. Although the park is geared to attract more ecotourism to the area, cacti are deeply respected by the locals, who express hope that visitors will enjoy a stroll around the greenhouses as well as spend time viewing the local wildlife. Additionally, visitors are encouraged to try their cactus-centric cuisine, especially the local favorite, cactus ice cream. + Qingwan Cactus Park + CCL Architects & Planners Via Archdaily Photography via Lin Fu Ming

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Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents

An army of 60,000 bees built this giant honeycomb teapot

February 23, 2015 by  
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Designer Tomáš Gabzdil Libertíny of Studio Libertiny collaborated with an army of bees to complete Thousand Years, his latest experimental beeswax sculpture . Commissioned by the French fine silver manufacturer Christofle , the large teapot-shaped vessel was created with the help of Dutch beekeeper Johan Beckers and his group of 60,000 bees. The unique work of art is a continuation of Libertíny’s fascination with harnessing the epic power of nature. Read the rest of An army of 60,000 bees built this giant honeycomb teapot Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: art made by bees , bee art , beehive , beehive art , beehive sculpture , bees , beeswax , beeswax art , beeswax sculpture , Christofle , Johan Beckers , studio libertiny , Thousand Years , Thousand Years sculpture , Tomáš Gabzdil Libertíny

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An army of 60,000 bees built this giant honeycomb teapot

5 tips for a green and happy Hanukkah!

December 8, 2014 by  
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Everybody loves Hanukkah;  the festival of lights that comes but once a year! Every December, we look forward to this joy-filled excuse to stuff our faces with fried potatoes, sour cream, and apple sauce, but eight days of burning candles, giving gifts, and frying pancakes could lead to some seriously wasteful behavior. Not to worry, all you eco Hanukkah lovers—there are plenty of ways that you can green up this year’s holiday celebration, and here are five smart tips to get you started! Read the rest of 5 tips for a green and happy Hanukkah! Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: beeswax , beeswax candles , Chanukah , dreidel , dreidels , eco hanukkah , eco-friendly hanukkah , eco-friendly menorah , festival of lights , gelt , green design , green holiday , hanukkah , Hanukkah gift , hanukkah gifts , hanukkah presents , Jewish , Jewish holiday , Judaica , latke , latkes , menorah , menorah oil , menorahs , Rabbi , sustainable design , sustainable hanukkah tips , synagogue

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These Amazing Honeycomb Sculptures Are Made by Bees!

August 12, 2014 by  
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We all know honeybees are essential to our food system and tireless workers, but who would have thought they could be artists too? Bejing-based artist Ren Ri collaborates with these fascinating insects to create stunning sculptures that incorporate the element of chance. Each sculpture is the result of a joint effort between Ri and a colony of bees he has been keeping since 2008. Read the rest of These Amazing Honeycomb Sculptures Are Made by Bees! Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Art , Artist , bees , beeswax , Beijing , china , chinese , honeybee , ren , ri , sculptures , t museum , yuansu

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These Amazing Honeycomb Sculptures Are Made by Bees!

DIY: All-Natural Creams and Salves for Cold-Battered Hands

October 25, 2013 by  
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I know that most people aren’t quite ready to say the “w” word just yet, but that season of sleet and snow will be upon many of us in a few short weeks, and it’s better to be prepared in advance, right? Just as we try to ensure that our faces , lips , and eyes are protected from harsh weather, it’s important to pay attention to our hands as well: dry, cracked, aching paws aren’t fun to deal with, especially if you spend your day typing or doing any fine-detail work. Here are a few DIY creams and salves that you can create at home: Read the rest of DIY: All-Natural Creams and Salves for Cold-Battered Hands Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: arnica , beeswax , calendula , carnauba wax , cayenne , cinnamon , coconut oil , cream , DIY , essential oils , hand cream , hand salve , olive oil , salve , skin cream , vegan , wintergreen        

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DIY: Make Your Own All-Natural Moisturizing Face Cream

August 23, 2013 by  
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Image via Shutterstock It seems like every other day, a new report gets shunted about online that lists all the horrible, harmful effects that ingredients in daily personal care products can wreak on our health. Parabens and phthalates are showing up in breast milk and body tissues; synthetic preservatives are polluting waterways… Just about everywhere we turn, the bad news bears peer around corners, admonishing us for the toxins we slather ourselves in. There is a way to absolutely ensure that the products we use are gentle on both our bodies and our environment, and that is to make our own. Read the rest of DIY: Make Your Own All-Natural Moisturizing Face Cream Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: beeswax , body care , care products , carnauba wax , coconut oil , cream , essential oils , face cream , hydrosols , moisturizer , neroli , olive oil , parabens , pthalates , rose , vegan cream        

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Massive California Wildfire Reaches the Border of Yosemite Park

August 23, 2013 by  
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Although there are 50 massive wildfires raging in the US right now, the so-called Rim Fire in California is perhaps of greatest concern. Yesterday the fire nearly quadrupled in size and has only been contained 1-percent by firefighters. But worst of all, the fire has reached the border of the stunning Yosemite park, prompting evacuations of homes and recreational areas from the ecologically sensitive region. Read the rest of Massive California Wildfire Reaches the Border of Yosemite Park Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: California Rim Fire , California wildfire , Climate Change , climate change wildfires , global warming , global warming wildfires , Rim Fire , Rim of the World Wildfire , spreading wildfires , Stanislaus National Forest , Stanislaus National Forest fire , Stanislaus National Forest wildfire , Summer wildfires , United States wildfires , wildfire in the US , Yosemite Park Fire , Yosemite wildfire        

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Massive California Wildfire Reaches the Border of Yosemite Park

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