Biomimicry: Learning from Nature's Strategies
San José, Costa Rica
Area of Study
Taught In English
Recommended U.S. Semester Credits4
Recommended U.S. Quarter Units6
Hours & Credits
This course is designed to introduce students from different backgrounds, interests and careers the basic fundamentals of Biomimicry, its methodology and its application as a design tool in creative processes. Participants have the opportunity, through dedicated time and access to sources of interest, to explore the application of these basic foundations in their own field, or area of interest. The course offers the opportunity to connect, see, feel and touch local biodiversity, and to experience the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary nature of biomimicry, learning how to access and communicate with people from diverse perspectives and experiences.
At this point in our global ecological crisis, the survival of humanity will require a fundamental shift in our attitude toward nature: from finding out how we can dominate and manipulate nature to how we can learn from her. Biomimicry is a transdisciplinary/multidisciplinary discipline that requires the interaction of professionals of different formations at the design table.
Our awakening: reconnection with Nature of which we are part.
What is biomimicry? A tool of design, a scientific discipline, a creative method, a strategy for our survival, a movement, a distinctive character of sustainability? Yes, it's all this and more.
Biomimicry captures our imagination because it is a promise, it is pragmatic and at the same time culturally transforming. In my opinion, one of the most complete conceptions of this discipline is that which proposes that biomimicry is the way to find sustainable and practical solutions to problems of daily life by emulating the countless recipes and strategies that nature has developed (bacteria, crustaceans, birds, plants, forests, etc.) in 3.8 billion years of evolution. It is not a servile imitation or a copy, but an active search, a conscious foresight; it does not imply extracting from nature, it implies learning from it. The fields of application of biomimicry are innumerable: architecture, electronics, biology, chemistry, design, economics-business, engineering, new materials science, mechanics, patterns.
Two success stories highlight these applications. In the field of architecture, a paradigmatic example was the construction - in 2011 - of the Qatar Sprouts hotel in Qatar, which borrowed ideas from an "expert" in desert lands: the cactus. The company responsible for its design, Aesthetics Architectural GO Group, imitated the shape and operation of the stomata of this plant, which are kept closed during the day and open to perspire at night. The building of the hotel was designed with a series of intelligent blinds on the outside that open and close depending on the light intensity, in order to preserve the desired temperature inside the building. In this way, making use of biomimicry, reduced the use of high power consumption cooling systems to cope with the arid and hot desert climate. Without a doubt this is an exemplary case in a nation of great oil wealth.
In the field of materials and systems, biomimicry has recently framed its efforts in the search and development of adaptation materials, nanomaterials, hierarchically structured materials, three-dimensional compounds and materials compatible with ecological requirements, among other applications. These materials have met needs in various disciplines such as chemistry, biochemistry, biomedical, physics and biology. The second successful example is in this area, with resilin, a protein found in insects that was "emulated" by the scientist Chris Elvin at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Resilin has remarkable properties and its ability to resist repeated bending is very valuable and with potential to be applied in numerous research areas. Currently, this scientific team is focusing its attention on the use of resilin to make replacements of disks of the spine, the spongy material that is between the bones and the vertebrae.
Human beings are not simply observers of nature, as if we were looking at it from a bubble. We are 100% nature. Therefore, ingenious and beautiful as well as the countless strategists on which biomimicry is inspired, it is time to intensify the inventiveness and look for more practical applications and answers based on the sustainable, effective and even aesthetically attractive solutions that nature developed a long time ago. In general, designs, products and systems inspired by the principles of nature have the potential to be leaders in innovation, energy efficiency, production of limiting resources and sustainability in general.
Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.
Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.
Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.
Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations