Category Archives: Biomimicry

A Love Letter to Nature

Interface

Dear Nature,

We didn’t always love you the way we do now. In fact for our first 21 years, we didn’t even realize how intrinsically we were connected to you. We didn’t know that our every action affects you. But then we were awakened, and we fell so deeply in love with you that others called us crazy. And our love for you transformed every aspect of ourselves – how we operate, how we make decisions – even our purpose. After all, how can a business be successful if it is harming you, the source of our life support system?

clouds in nature

Nature, do you remember the first time we came seeking your inspiration? We put aside our brash belief that we could solve every problem by ourselves, and we asked for your guidance. Admiring the beautiful and chaotic floors of your forests and meadows, we let go of our need to make every tile identical, and we embraced the untapped power of diversity. The world loved your innovative solution too.

Now here we are, decades into our love affair, and we are still learning from you—how your patterns can heal us, how your models can guide us. And we believe that reconnecting with our love for you will not only lead us to more circular systems, but also help us become healthier and more productive too. How amazing to learn that spending time with you, or in spaces designed to be evocative of you, may result in reduced stress levels, faster healing rates, and improved cognitive functioning!

room with nature light

We are finally learning from your generosity and asking ourselves what it would mean for us to be generous too. How could we contribute to spaces that facilitate wellbeing? How could our factories replenish your ecosystems? We are striving to be more like you and know we need your guidance now more than ever.

With love,
Interface

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Biomimicry & The Biomimetic Office Building

Interface

An Interview with Michael Pawlyn, Architect & Author

In The Biomimetic Office Building, lighting takes its inspiration from the translucent four-eyed spookfish and a spindly-legged cousin of the starfish, the brittle star, both deep ocean dwellers. The building’s glazed glass exterior nods to a mollusk’s iridescent shell, while our own double duty spinal column is echoed in support columns that also encase the building’s energy systems.

To Biomimetic Office Building designer, architect Michael Pawlyn, the natural world teems with models of brilliant design efficiency. Pawlyn’s book, Biomimicry in Architecture, inspired and challenged architects, urban designers and product designers to look to Nature for beautiful models of resource efficiency.

It also called for them to move beyond sustainability, which Pawlyn characterized as “minimizing the negatives,” primarily of resource and energy consumption, versus the regenerative model that is biomimicry. The Biomimetic Office Building is the latest project undertaken by Pawlyn and his Exploration Architecture team. The design, which uses biomimicry to rethink the workplace into a self-heated, self-cooled, self-ventilated, day-lit structure that is also a net producer of energy, will strengthen the case for biomimicry by drawing a brighter line between restorative, responsible design and cost savings. In addition to biomimicry, the project incorporates the principles of psychologist, Craig Knight, such as plants in the workplace, to address employee well-being, job satisfaction and productivity.

Biomimetic Office Building

The Biomimetic Office Building uses biomimicry to rethink the workplace.

“The design debate has shifted over the last 10 to 15 years from resource and energy saving to improved productivity,” said Pawlyn. While upon completion the Biomimetic Office Building promises to be one of the world’s lowest energy office buildings, energy costs are tiny compared to employee costs, such as salaries. And according to Pawlyn, design of The Biomimetic Office will maximize substantial human resource investments through gains in productivity of as much as 25 percent.

This grounded, practical cost-benefit equation, however, belies the project’s ingeniously fantastic soul. The building infrastructure, for example, is modeled on the bone structure of birds and cuttlefish. Everything about a bird must be light, strong and efficient to enable flight. While delicate, bird bones are actually far from fragile. In particular, their skulls are made from multiple layers of very thin bone. The layers lend strength without the added weight that could impede flight. Similarly, the layers that comprise cuttlefish bones vary to add reinforcement only where the animal needs it for movement, support or protection.

In bird skulls and cuttlefish bones, Pawlyn found that “complex forms that use minimal materials in exactly the right place,” is often the operating principle in Nature, and their ingenuity was incorporated into key structural components of the Biomimetic Office Building, the floor slabs and columns. Sections of the floor that will be “working hard” by taking on more of the stress of the structure and weight will need denser concentrations of concrete. Columns and floor slabs earmarked for lighter duty can be hollow, their voids used for secondary purposes, such as, housing wiring or temperature control components.

skull & shell

The building infrastructure is modeled on the bone structure of birds and cuttlefish. The glazed glass exterior nods to a mollusk’s iridescent shell.

For further temperature control, the building design calls for intricate, identical shades, able to respond automatically and, if necessary, separately to changes in light the way plants such as the mimosa pudica, or sensitive plant, and Venus flytrap move in response to touch or other external stimulation. Another tropical plant variety, the epiphytic anthurium, which grows on other plants close to the rain forest floor and efficiently captures and makes use of scarce sunlight, is providing food for thought for a subsequent phase of the Biometric Office Building design.

In consultation with work space designers and psychologists, biologists and even primatologists, Pawlyn and Exploration Architecture continue to seek innovative design solutions that draw upon the billions of years of wisdom found in Nature, challenging not just our thinking about the final product or outcome, but the very process by which we arrive there.

“Don’t start with reality, start by identifying the ideal and then compromise as little as necessary to meet constraints of budget and buildability,” says Pawlyn. “If you don’t start by identifying the ideal then you’re very unlikely to find breakthrough ideas.”

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A Ray of Hope – Ray C. Anderson Foundation Global Design Challenge

Interface

How would Mother Nature design a company? When posed by Interface founder Ray Anderson in 1994, that question became part of the radical conversation that would reshape the company he founded. In 2016, this kind of radical thinking will guide criteria for the first-ever Ray of Hope prize in recognition of inspired biomimicry-based solutions.

“Don’t look at images of Nature,” encouraged Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry Institute and a member of Interface’s Eco Dream Team. “Look at her organizing principles.”

NF400 NF401 Felt

How would Mother Nature design a carpet tile?

Back in 1994, founder Ray Anderson had his “epiphany”—a sea change that would reinvent Interface, then in its 21st year. At that time, biomimicry was not yet the phenomenon it is today, but its underlying principle—looking to Nature’s design systems to solve problems—was intuitive and embraced by Ray. He challenged the company to become sustainable, but no one could know how a carpet company might accomplish it. After all, we were so dependent on petroleum for energy and inputs that we might as well have been an extension of the oil industry. The spark for change lay in the simple question—How would Mother Nature design a carpet tile?—and the results are compelling: 50 percent of Interface materials are from bio-based or recycled sources.

By establishing the $100,000 annual Ray of Hope prize, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, in association with the Biomimicry Institute, will recognize students, designers or other visionaries who are developing market-ready, scalable, biomimicry-inspired solutions. The prize complements the Global Design Challenge, also sponsored by the Foundation and the Biomimicry Institute, which launched in 2015. The first two years of the Challenge are focused on solutions to improve global food security, and will progress every two years through other global challenges.

Biomimicry Global Design Challenge

#Thinkoutside to fix our food system.

Both the Challenge and the Ray of Hope prize are designed to drive great ideas out of the lab and into the market where they can make the biggest impact.

As Ray would say, “So right, and so smart.

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A Net Effect Experience

Wilma Rendon

Wilma Rendon
Director of Business Development – JDJ Architects

We talked to Wilma Rendon, designer and director of business development for JDJ Architects in Chicago, to learn more about her experience using our Net Effect® Collection on a recent project. Net Effect was inspired by Net-Works®, the restorative business partnership between Interface, Aquafil, the Zoological Society of London and Philippine fishermen.

How did the Net-Works story help you engage your customer into the project?
The Net-Works story is compelling. It integrates a creative business approach, design and sustainability. One of our clients, Oasis Legal Finance, chose carpet tiles from the Net Effect Collection after hearing the engaging story. It’s pleasing to select a beautiful, high quality product that contributes to the well-being of so many.

How important is flooring when you’re designing a space?
Flooring is a key element of design. It can be utilized as way-finding, to differentiate work areas from lounge areas, to reinforce brand identity and much more. If we don’t consider flooring as an important element of design, we miss an opportunity.

It also has a great impact on the health of the office environment, affecting acoustics, maintenance, and the bottom line. We walk all day in our offices and the floor we select is important.

How do you feel the Net Effect Collection is affecting the well-being of the building occupants?
We believe that the materials and colors that surround us have an impact on our well-being and the way we experience a space. When selecting finishes we always ask: what emotion or feeling do we want the space to evoke? Is it energy, movement, excitement, tranquility? The answer is unique for every project.

Net Effect’s deep colors and rich pattern makes you notice the flooring, setting an organic, rich tone for the design. So we used Net Effect to set the tone in selected impact areas—the conference room and the reception area. We used the modular carpet as the foundation of the design palette and integrated complementary finishes and colors to create a strong environment that supports the Oasis Legal Finance brand. Our client and their staff are very pleased with the end result.

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Part of Nature, Not Apart from Nature

Interface

Our offices can be more than spaces to work. They can actually work for us at a deeply biological level. We know that exposure to nature and spaces that are evocative of nature can help renew our bodies and our minds. Our brains and bodies evolved over tens of thousands of years without buildings, and research indicates that we are at our best when we can recreate physical and psychological reminders of our most ancient home, Earth.

(C) J. Albert Gagnier

Photography: J. Albert Gagnier

Biophilia is at the heart of these realizations – the innate, biological desire and need humans have to connect with other living organisms and the natural world in its entirety. Literally, it means life-loving. According to Dr. Judith Heerwagen, “contact with nature is a basic human need – not a cultural amenity, not an individual preference, but a universal primary need. Just as we need healthy food and regular exercise to flourish, we need ongoing connections with the natural world.”

In fact, we are nature. Interface’s founder, Ray Anderson, often reminded us, “Anything we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves.” Biophilic design holds the promise of embedding this reminder — that we are a part of the web of life and not apart from it — in every space we create.

RESOURCES

Human Spaces

“14 Patterns of Biophilic Design: Improving Health and Wellness in the Built Environment”
by Terrapin Bright Green

“The Economics of Biophilia: Why designing with nature in mind makes financial sense” by Terrapin Bright Green

“Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life” film by Tamarak Media

WELL Building Standard

“Biophilia and innovation: Can changing your view change your worldview?” by Lindsay James

Posted in Category Biomimicry, Biophilia, Biophilic Design, Sustainability | Leave a comment