Mother Nature Will Dictate Product And Inevitably Business Design

June 17, 2007 at 4:16 pm Leave a comment

The first trend I proposed for Business Trends of the Future was the influence Mother Nature will have on product and business design.  This first became apparent to me when I began to read with some regularity Dwell magazine.  Interestingly, this was one of the magazines Daniel Pink proposed as a good read to develop a design component to the thinking process.  We all know that sustainability is a big trend right now and rightly so; in Dwell (which is an architectural design magazine basically) however, many homes are featured that when designed and built, were put up in way that not only minimized the environmental impact of the building, but also tended to blend into that environment.  Many of the buildings featured have the quality of actually becoming an extension of the surrounding environment; almost a living, organic entity.

One current example that comes to mind is Fab Tree Hab, a conceptual architectural design first put together by three MIT students and currently being moved beyond the conceptual stage by Mitchell Joachim (one of the original three) through his nonprofit, Terraform.  The idea is basically to allow the growth of a specific Israeli tree to determine the exterior design of the house as it grows.  Joachim uses a computer-designed plywood structure as a framework over which the tree will grow.  As it grows over the plywood, the plywood is removed and the interior walls are built out of clay and plaster.  Although there have been some kinks to work out in the areas of zoning and window installation, Joachim feels the concept will soon be ready for sale.  Interestingly, all the interior workings of the house are entirely sustainable.  Here are 9 characteristics of the structure put forth by the original three designers:

1. Composed with 100% living nutrients.
2. Harmonize & embrace growth.
3. Make effective contributions to the ecosystem.
4. Accountable removal of human impacts.
5. Involve arboreal farming & production.
6. Subsume technology within terrestrial environs.
7. Circulate water & metabolic flows symbiotically.
8. Consider the life cycle, from use to disposal.
9. Achieve a fitness with our earthen web of life. 

As you can see, this structure has moved beyond green and sustainable to ABSOLUTELY green!

Mitchell Joachim’s website has an excellent slideshow describing both the interior and exterior workings of the project in-depth.

I also came across an interesting article at CNNMoney.com which was originally written by Ethan Watters in Business 2.0 magazine.  Entitled “Product Design, Nature’s Way“, the article provides some insight into the relatively new field of biomimicry.  The Biomimicry Institute defines biomimicry as “a design discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems”.  Proponents believe that many of the problems mankind is currently attempting to solve already have a solution available in the natural environment.  Our job is just to find it.  Ethan Watters article aptly begins, “for all their skill and technological prowess, human engineers still can’t match Mother Nature’s best designs”.  Knowing this, it would make sense that the next move in product design and development and eventually business design itself would be to look to Mother Nature for inspiration.  Furthermore, biomimics, as practitioners of the emerging science are known, believe that by applying nature’s example, we will be doing the best we can to combat enviromental destruction by humans and that natural designs tend to be the most efficient. 

As a result of this development we see SYMPHONY, as a Conceptual Age aptitude, in action.  John Pietrzyk, president of Biomimetic Connections, a California-based consulting firm states,  “The biologists who know their species and the engineers who solve specific problems are finally talking to each other.  When universities fully integrate research teams, they’re going to produce wonders”.  Who would of thought biologists and engineers would one day be working in tandem to produce tangible products incorporating natural design principles?

Back in 2004, Wired magazine published an article titled “Ideas Stolen Right From Nature“.  While much of the article tried to shed light on the re-emerging science of biomimetics which hadn’t at that time had much success since the invention of Velcro, there was one quotation that illuminated for me the potential of biomimicry in business in the years to come:

“At present there is only a 10 percent overlap between biology and technology in terms of the mechanisms used,” said Julian Vincent, professor of biomimetics at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. “So I feel that there is huge potential.”

That spells out the future potential right there.  There is only a 10% overlap between biology and tech in mechanisms used.  That leaves 90% of natural solutions to be applied to technology in order to solve problems and make a profit.

While this posting is in no way an extensive and all-encompassing explanation and argument for biomimicry, I feel that the science will play a large part in future business and design trends.  Explore the subject for yourself and let me know what you think!

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Entry filed under: Design, Sustainability, Symphony, Uncategorized.

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