Dec 032008
Authors: Tyler Okland

Asking people to take inspiration from the complex systems and beauty in nature, officials presented a new method to develop innovative, sustainable business practices at the New Belgium Brewing Company Wednesday afternoon.

Recognized as one of the newest scientific areas, biomimicry is the science of imitating the designs and complexities of nature and using them to solve problems in everyday life.

Scientists hope to use biomimicry to develop various products and practices to maintain and improve the world’s environmental health.

As a national, not-for-profit organization, the Biomimicry Institute intends to use education as a tool to grow a community of people who wish to emulate and conserve the natural environment.

“We’re trying to create sustainable designs by asking nature,” said Denise DeLuca, outreach director of the Biomimicry Institute, who addressed about 60 Fort Collins and CSU community members at the brewery.

“Every nutrient, every drop of water, every piece of material in nature is recycled, and the process actually benefits the environment.”

The Biomimicry Institute has several projects underway, such as the week-old Web site,, which is a reservoir of information that is intended to use nature as inspiration for innovative and sustainable technologies.////////

“But overall, we have a ton of projects going on; one area is education and training. We work with zoos and TV shows, and we have a CD called ‘Ask the Planet,'” DeLuca said.///////////

DeLuca described the use of sharkskin swimsuits at the 2008 Olympics as an example of biomimicry that challenges accepted norms. The longitudinal grooves that cover a shark’s body, like teeth, actually allow it to move faster in water than if the skin were featureless. Swimmers worldwide now use swimsuits that adopt this principle.

Though DeLuca had few examples of buildings that currently capitalize on the advantages of biomimicry, she said the field is growing daily. Taking a lesson from African termites, DeLuca explained how naturalistic and specific convection strategies could lower air conditioning costs by 90 percent.

And while CSU does not currently offer a major in biomimicry, DeLuca said she hopes to add it to the curriculum as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, she challenged the community to educate themselves in the field with simple, naturalistic observations.

“Learning more is great. Get inspired, go outside. It’s a new way of looking at nature. Look at how things are connected, and then think about how do we do those things,” she said.

“And then challenge yourself to break it down into individual functions,” she said.

CSU freshman biochemistry major Samantha Barrows said that though biomimicry sounded helpful, she was unsure of its practicality.

“Although biomimicry sounds good in theory, the practice might fall short of this ideal portrait,” Barrows said. ///

DeLuca, however, said biomimicry must first be sustainable and then practical for it to spread further.////

“We use an ecological standard to make sure something is sustainable,” she said. “Ultimately, we can take strategies from many organisms and incorporate them in one design, called a chimera design.”/////////// ///////////

Currently, DeLuca is training a growing community of activists to be “biomimics,” in a cyclical process that capitalizes on growth.

“After we teach people to be biomimics, then it’s their job to be a trainer. We train everyone. We train biologist to not be afraid of the engineering and design world.”//////

DeLuca closed by saying she believes biomimicry will become increasingly popular in the next several years.

“(Biomimicry) is spreading faster than we can keep up with it. It’s popping up in places we haven’t even been to yet,” she said.

Staff writer Tyler Okland can be reached at

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