Biomimicry possesses tremendous potential to improve the performance of structures and buildings in their entire lifecycle. Nevertheless, a myriad of challenges is limiting its implementation in the construction industry. A survey conducted on a sample of some of the most experienced architects in the industry revealed that lack of relevant knowledge as one of the most major challenges that are hindering the deployment of biomimetic techniques and the design of structures. In particular, architects face significant issues, while using biomimetic resources and tools, which are yet to be organized into defined and considerably rely on semantic information. Therefore, it is recommended that architectural programs should be revised to incorporate a substantial level of biological information, hence ensure that designers can use biomimetic tools and resources in the future. Moreover, biomimicry-related training should be emphasized to ensure that existing architects can use biomimetic techniques in their design.
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While designers do not have any shortage of biomimetic tools to select from, these tools are yet to be organized into full biomimicry sets, which can significantly enhance throughout the process of product design. In most cases, biomimetic tools assist designers in generating concepts, as well as mapping them from biometrics to probable applications. Some organizations, such as Biomimicry Oregon, a Portland-based regional network, which focuses on nature-inspired techniques of managing stormwater, have done remarkable research work in biomimicry. For instance, Bio-mimicry Institute has already published a seminal research report, which outlines numerous nature-oriented strategies of managing stormwater in Portland. The report outlines several approaches of managing stormwater at Willamette valley, especially focusing on organisms and systems to establish mechanisms in which nature gathers, stores, transports and reduces the force effects water. Furthermore, the institute organized a conference, including 45 stormwater researchers, designers, entrepreneurs and policymakers to share some of the techniques that are used by local organisms in rainwater management. The workshop ideated 30 new mechanisms of managing stormwater, especially based on nature lessons as articulated in the Biomimicry Institute’s report (Fayemi, Maranzana, Aoussat, A. and Bersano 2014). Nevertheless, despite the massive research efforts, biomimetic tools provide considerably reduced little practical advice, especially on how to translate biomimicry ideologies into prototypes that can be manufactured. Therefore, although previous research indicates that biomimicry has a tremendous potential to improve natural resource management, there is considerably reduced deployment of relevant strategies, especially in the construction sector.
The construction industry is one of the most essential sectors that play considerably determine the quality of life of a population, as well as meets the critical society demands. Furthermore, investments in the construction industry play a key strategic role in many countries’ national development and economic growth strategy. Passino (2005) notes that because it provides the necessary infrastructure, hence facilitates development in urban centers, the construction industry is tightly connected to urbanization. In this regard, any techniques and technologies that improve the construction industry are significantly relevant to urbanization and economic growth in a specific country. However, while biomimicry possesses tremendous potential to improve the construction industry, it has received considerably reduced attention from construction designers and engineers. Previous research indicates that one of the construction industry’s characteristics is the consumption of huge amounts of energy. In particular, massive energy is consumed in the entire lifecycle of structures, including the process of manufacturing building materials, transportation of materials from the manufacturer to the construction site, development of structure or building, operation of structure or building and demolishing and recycling part of a structure or building. In the UK, buildings are responsible for around 50% and the construction stage utilizes an additional 5-10% of energy consumption in the country. Therefore, there is a considerably urgent need to establish effective and efficient means that can be used to enhance the construction sector, especially by reducing its massive consumption of energy.
Previous studies have identified that nature depicts effective, efficient, functional, eco-friendly and aesthetically gratifying aspects, especially through its designs and solution. Without beat, heat, and treat, natural organisms manufacture ecosystems, which run on sunlight and feedback, hence rather than creating waste, they develop opportunities. Through the research and development of nature, which has been perfected in a period spanning almost 4 billion years evolution, humanity has identified sustainable attributes, hence methodologies and techniques that can be used to enhance a wide range of processes, including the construction of new structures. In this regard, architects, designers, innovators and engineers have started consulting the natural superb forms, policies and processes to address the sustainability challenges in the world. Therefore, biomimicry, one of the latest disciplines in the construction sector, which focuses on the natural paradigm and emulates their processes, forms, strategies and systems to address sustainability issues for humanity, has emerged in the recent past.
The primary aim of this research is to identify specific reasons that are hindering the adoption of biomimetic techniques in the construction sector, especially the design of structures. In particular, this paper will focus on the following objectives:
While recent research indicates that biomimicry has considerable potential to improve operations in the construction industry, there is significantly reduced adoption of biomimetic strategies in design and development structures or buildings. Currently, research has identified and formulated significant biomimetic techniques that can be used to improve the performance of structures in their entire lifecycle, especially from development to demolition. Because the design phase is significantly critical in the development and operation of structures or buildings, it is necessary to consider biomimetic techniques, which have tremendous potential to improve their performance (Al-Obaidi, Ismail, Hussein and Rahman 2017). Nevertheless, it is only a few designers who incorporate biomimetic techniques in their design work. Therefore, this study focuses on identifying the key factors that hinder the adoption of biomimetic strategies in the construction sector.
A qualitative study approach was used to identify the reasons that make designers fail to incorporate biomimetic techniques in the design and implementation of construction projects. A qualitative technique of research was preferred in this study because of its ability to provide a detailed perception of the reason people behave in a particular manner, as well as provide adequate insights regarding their perception of their behavior.
A random sampling technique was used to identify an appropriate sample of designers in the construction industry. In a particular, A Sample of 30 architects with at least 15 years of experience in architectural design was selected from public and private architectural design organizations. Furthermore, a 90% guaranteed response rate was expected to ensure the achievement of a sufficiently reliable sample that could enhance the completeness of the targeted primary data. Nevertheless, Creswell and Clark (2011) indicate that although a random sampling technique introduces an obvious issue of proper representation, especially for huge populations, it addresses the systematic biasedness issue. Specifically, the issue of systematic bias was eliminated by offering all eligible participants an equal opportunity to participate in the study, hence enabling the selection of an unbiased representative sample of the study.
Semi-structured interviews and open-ended questionnaires were utilized to gather primary data from a sample of considerably experienced architects. Qualitative data, especially lengthy interview statements were analyzed using by categorizing it into evident themes or sets from which inferences were made. In particular, the initial phase of analysis involved familiarizing with the gathered data, which involved reading the interview statements and the questionnaire statements several times to familiarize with the responses, hence identify fundamental patterns or observations. After the phase of familiarizing with the gathered data, it was considered necessary to revisit the study objectives, hence establish the questions which could be answered with the gathered data. Furthermore, the analysis of the gathered data involved the development of a paradigm, which is also referred to as indexing or coding, especially by establishing broad concepts, ideas, behaviors and phrases and assigning them specific codes. After the coding phase, the study focused on the identification of themes, especially by establishing themes from common responses, as well as patterns or data that could answer the research questions and finding further research areas.
The stud confirmed that many designers do not incorporate biomimetic techniques during the design of construction projects. Out of the 30 interviewed designers, only 5 indicated that they consider biomimetic issues during the design phase of construction projects. In particular, many architects cited the lack of adequate and practical information regarding the practicality of biomimetic methods in the development of structures. Two-thirds of the interviewed respondents indicated that the biomimicry knowledge that they possess is largely theoretical rather than practical. Although not directly, many architects cited lack of relevant knowledge and skills, especially to facilitate substantial collaboration between the domains of architecture and biology, as one of the primary challenges that hinder their ability to incorporate biomimicry in their design and deployment of construction projects. Moreover, 29 respondents indicated that they experience significant challenges while using existing resources and tools, which largely depend on semantic methods of enhancing the translation of knowledge and information between design and biology. More than half of the study participants noted that collaboration and evaluation issues are significantly prevalent in design practice and can be addressed through prototyping. Nevertheless, all the study participants indicated that biomimicry can significantly improve the performance of structures throughout their entire lifecycle. In particular, respondents noted that the adoption of biomimicry in the design, especially by focusing on the use of green energy can significantly enhance the performance of structures (Badarnah 2017). Therefore, this research suggests that apart from identifying biomimetic techniques that can be used to enhance construction projects, it is necessary to focus on prototyping to acquire practical knowledge about the performance of biomimicry-oriented projects.
Apart from prototyping, the study revealed that it is necessary to redesign training programs, especially by introducing biology-related subjects to enhance the ability of architects and engineers to use biomimetic tools, as well as incorporate biomimicry in the design and development of construction projects. Because many architects do not possess adequate biology-related knowledge, they can barely use biomimetic tools, hence cannot incorporate adopt biomimicry-oriented methods in their design. Nevertheless, previous studies have established that designers and engineers with a significantly high level of knowledge in biological subjects experience reduced challenges while utilizing nature-oriented tools and resources. For instance, many professionals who adopt the use of self-healing concrete have expressed tremendous interest in biological subjects. Thus, apart from prototyping, it is necessary to introduce biological subjects in architecture both at the college and the professional level.
While biomimicry can significantly enhance the performance of structures and buildings, there is a wide range of challenges that are hindering the adoption of biomimetic techniques in the construction industry. In particular, despite there being a substantial amount of research on how biomimetic techniques can be used to enhance the performance of structures, most of the research is highly theoretical hence cannot be easily applied in the design phase of construction. Moreover, many architects possess significantly reduced biological information, hence cannot use the existing tools and resources. In this regard, while biomimicry has a massive potential to enhance the construction process, many designers are still using conventional techniques, which yield considerably inefficient structures. For instance, the failure to incorporate modern technologies in the design and development of buildings in the UK has resulted in costly structures, which account for about 50% of energy consumption in the country. Nevertheless, many architects largely attribute their failure to use effective and efficient methods to lack of adequate knowledge. Specifically, inadequate biological information and skills significantly hinder the ability of designers to use biomimetic tools and resources. Furthermore, many of the existing tools depend on semantic knowledge to translate knowledge between biology and design. Without a substantial level of biological knowledge, architects cannot use these tools in the design phase. For this reason, most of the current buildings are developed using conventional techniques that are highly inefficient, especially because the design is one of the most critical stages of construction project development. Thus, it is recommended the training of architects’ training should include biological subjects to ensure that designers use both biological tools and resources. In particular, training should be emphasized both at the college and at the professional level. At the college level, architecture programs should include biological subjects to ensure that graduates possess fundamental information that can be used to implement new technologies in their design. In addition, practicing designers should be trained on how to use biomimetic tools and resources to ensure that they have the necessary capability to incorporate biomimicry in the design of structures or buildings. Because most of the existing knowledge is theoretical, it is necessary to emphasize the prototyping of biomimetic solutions to ensure that they can be applied in the construction industry. With prototyping, designers can view the actual performance of the proposed solutions. While they have the necessary knowledge and skills and can perceive the actual performance of solutions, designers will be able to incorporate biomimicry in design. Therefore, prototyping and training are some of the solutions that may increase the adoption of biomimetic resources and techniques in design.
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