Introduction

Humans have long used nature as a source of inspiration for solving problems and improving technology, and as our understanding of nature has improved so has our ability to mimic its ingenious solutions for our own purposes. Simply by asking the question “How does nature do this?” we can use millions of years of evolution as a shortcut to an optimised solution. Biomimicry has been used to solve design problems as diverse as waterproof materials, optimised structures and bacteria-repelling surfaces.[1]

While the results of such nature-inspired projects can seem highly specialist or even sound like science fiction, biomimetic solutions to global problems could quickly come to be part of our everyday lives. As the planet’s fossil fuel supplies dwindle and energy bills continue to rise, biomimetics could offer a way to increase the efficiency of UK homes, reducing energy use and the cost to the homeowner.

Task

Your task is to design a biomimetic system for UK homes which can maintain a comfortable internal environment, with minimal energy use, by reacting to a 48-hour weather forecast. Your solution may be an off-the-shelf system which can be retrofitted into existing homes, or an entirely new building design. You will need to justify the approach you select with reference to the natural processes which have influenced your design. It is important for your system to be affordable, and for everyday operation and maintenance to be easily performed by the average homeowner. 

Considerations

When developing your design you should be aware of the energy sources and utilities which are commonly used by homes in the UK, and which household functions they are used for. Does household energy consumption vary with the changing weather?

As your home must respond to the 48-hour weather forecast, you must consider what information is available and the accuracy of these forecasts. How can you use this information to reduce household energy use, and are there natural processes or materials which can help achieve this? How does nature… ventilate? maintain a constant temperature? conserve water?

The biomimetic system you develop is designed to be used in homes. In your proposal you should make clear how your solution is appropriate for domestic use, and how occupants will interact with it. How much input is required from the homeowner to run the system?

You should demonstrate how your proposal is an improvement over existing building designs. How long will it take for energy savings to cover the initial cost of installing the system?

[1] Biomimicry In Action by Janine Benyus: http://www.ted.com/talks/janine_benyus_biomimicry_in_action