Saturday, April 23, 2016

POEM: A Contrast in Rain


I am a single drop of rain, falling from the sky


I fall fast and hard on a single leaf at the top of the forest canopy;
I break apart.
My daughters fall slower and softer on the leaves below;
Until they break apart.
My granddaughters fall slower and softer still;
Over and over;
Until they either rest on the leaves or fall to the soil, ready to venture down into the soil matrix where they are pulled up to through the tree to nourish it and be released into the air once more.

But if I fall in the city, my story is very different.

Instead of landing on many surfaces and being absorbed by the soil, I land on a hard roof or road.
I join my sister raindrops, travelling in a fast current and speeding up as if on a roller coaster, picking up leaves, debris, trash, chemicals, and topsoil and washing them away.
Faster and faster still, I travel at breakneck speed until I reach a river, and eventually the ocean.
I have fed no one;
I have polluted the river, the ocean;
And I have drained the fertility of the soil.

Water left on site feeds an ecosystem;
Water lost to runoff feeds no one.


But what if our buildings were more like trees, our streets more like the fertile soil?
They would drink me, clean me, store me, and eventually release me to the sky again!
Nourishing an ecosystem and the diversity of life.
By learning from the forest, our communities can do the same.

WE NEED NATURE. THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN.

- Amy Coffman Phillips

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Alone in the Wildness

I took a walk outside of a homestead farm this morning, just at daybreak. The farm is between the territory of two wolf packs, so I was warned to be on guard. As I walked, I felt my own fragility. I looked for rocks with which to defend myself or scare a wolf away, should it come to that. To be fair, I was never in any real danger - wolves don't normally encroach on human settlements unless they are desperate - but as a city gal, it had me considering my own survival more than I normally do!

It made me feel as though the whole biophilia concept is a luxury for those who are safely disconnected from nature and her wildness. But after a day of workshops, talking, and deeply listening and planning, it felt good to have such clarity of thought and purpose. I was on guard, but I felt alive and alert in ways I don’t normally. And it felt amazing to be alone and quiet after a day of constant human communication.

Singularity of purpose, solitude, and quiet are rarities in my life, and I treasure the moments when they come, despite the undercurrent of fear. It was life, it was wildness, and it was gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Nature Walk Among the Trees: Learning Multi-Functional Design from Nature

Educators are the ultimate multi-taskers! We are required to balance the needs and interests of students, parents, and administrators while teaching to many different sets of educational standards - and keeping it interesting for students (and us)! Because of this, we are always looking to get the most out of everything we do and every lesson plan must accomplish many goals at the same time. 
"It was fun measuring the tree and writing and coloring!"
- Camille, Kindergarten
Our “Nature Walk Among the Trees” lesson showcases our simple, yet powerful approach to fit in with various K-12 standards (STEM & NextGen Science) in a fun and thought provoking session that challenges students (and teachers) to think “outside the box” and learn about science in nature in a creative new way. Looking to biomimicry’s Life Principle to “use multi-functional design,” we showcase life’s multi-functional strategies as exemplified in a native tree. For example, leaves:
  • provide shade, 
  • transfer energy,
  • absorb carbon dioxide,
  • filter air,
  • self-cool, 
  • recycle nitrogen...
...all in one seemingly simple little package! What can we learn from life’s multi-functional strategies to design products and services that perform just as well?

Participants in our session will experience the class as their students would, learning about biomimicry’s life’s principles from a trained biomimic and learning from a curriculum designer how lessons from this course can fit within their current curriculum and fulfill requirements for a STEM and Next Generation Science Standards. Support materials will be provided that you can bring back and implement in your classroom. “A Nature Walk Among the Trees” is one of several courses we are creating to make it easy and fun to integrate biomimicry’s Life’s Principles into K-5 classes.

Register for the Biomimicry Educator's Summit in Austin, Texas, October 4th and learn more about our educational products on our website!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Biomimicry for the Designer: 101

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!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nine Reasons Why Applying Biomimicry to Built Environment Projects is a Win-Win-Win!

Photo: ZlicovekShutterstock
Amy was recently asked to contribute to the Biomimicry Institute's new blog, Asking Nature. Check out her thoughts on "Nine Reasons Why Applying Biomimicry to Built Environment Projects is a Win-Win-Win!"
"Designers in the building industry are continually looking for new and innovative ways to create beautiful, livable spaces that are environmentally responsible and resilient. Increasingly, those on the leading edge are looking to nature as a source of inspiration. Here are nine examples of how applying biomimicry in the context of the built environment can help designers, projects, and communities as they work to create naturally sustainable, inherently resilient spaces."
Curious to learn more? Check out the next Chicago Biomimicry Immersive Workshop THIS SATURDAY! Enter promo code 'BioChi10' for 10% off the cost of registration!





Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Collective Resilience


Mention the term "swarm theory" and people typically think of robots that work together or accident-avoiding cars, but conversations I've been having recently are all about bringing swarm theory to work for human behavior. In a nutshell: how can we set up structures within our businesses, organizations, and communities that incentivize individuals to work together toward a common goal? 

I've written about swarm theory in relation to communication issues in a previous entry, and building on that, how can we leverage the mechanisms behind this innate behavior to create strategic alignment for our businesses and communities? The mechanisms in swarm theory are simple: individual organisms working together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of their parts. Through information transparency, multiple sensors, and simple rules, flocks and swarms are able to leverage the self-interest of the individual to work together and mitigate disturbances, such as predation. The biological mechanisms are simple, but translating them to a human context is anything but elementary.

Perhaps you are asking yourself:
How can I grow my business while keeping my culture intact? How can my organization cut through the noise to spread the word on an important initiative? How can I organize my community to collectively tackle initiatives that mitigate the effects of urban flooding, crime, and climate change? 
Let's start learning from billions of years of nature's R&D and work together to bring natural solutions to work for our businesses, organizations, and communities. Contact us to learn more!

Resources to learn more!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Exploring Synergies: Biomimicry's Genius of Place and the Living Building Challenge

I recently started a conversation with biomimicry friends and colleagues about the synergies between The Global Biomimicry Network's Genius of Place initiatives (affectionately referred to as "GoP") and the Living Building Challenge ("LBC"), specifically Imperative #9: Biophilic Environment. For those of us interested in emulating nature's forms, processes, and systems in the built environment, it is an interesting area to explore! I've synthesized initial our thoughts in this blog entry, but we need to continually adapt and grow our thinking on this subject. We would love to hear your thoughts as well - please join the conversation and let us know what you think!

Here is how the LBC 3.0 Imperative #9 is written:
Living Building Challenge 3.0: Imperative #9 Biophilic Environment
Of the imperative's above, I would like to particularly highlight the following:
"(Show) how the project will be uniquely connected to the place, climate and culture through Place-based Relationships."
and
"The plan should include historical, cultural, ecological, and climatic studies that thoroughly examine the site and context for the project."
So what does this mean for practitioners who are interested in meeting Living Building Challenge standards while fostering an intrinsic connection to place through biomimicry? And how do we communicate the value of a regional and site-specific Genius of Place initiative without confusing people with all the "Bio" terms? (See Terrapin Bright Green's amazing post on this subject to learn more about the distinction.)