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  • Writer's pictureArnav Kele

Emergence of Biodesign

Using Living Systems for Sustainable Biodesign Construction

The construction industry is responsible for a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletion, making it a key target for efforts to promote sustainability and combat climate change. In recent years, designers, engineers, and researchers have turned to biodesign as a way to harness the power of living systems and materials to create more sustainable and resilient buildings and infrastructure.

Biodesign involves the use of biological systems, materials, and technologies to create new products and solutions that are inspired by or derived from nature. While biodesign has been used in a variety of industries, from healthcare to fashion, it is particularly relevant to the construction industry, which is responsible for significant environmental impacts and resource consumption.

History and Evolution

The roots of biodesign can be traced back to the 1960s, when Buckminster Fuller introduced the concept of "livingry" - design that mimics biological systems - in his book "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth". However, it was not until the 1990s that the term "biodesign" was first coined by William Myers, an American design critic, in his book "Biodesign: Nature + Science + Creativity". Read more about William Myers.

Since then, biodesign has evolved rapidly, and today it is a multidisciplinary field that includes designers, architects, engineers, scientists, and artists. Bio-designers draw inspiration from natural systems, such as how plants grow and animals interact with their environment, to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to complex problems.

The emergence of biodesign in the construction industry can be traced back to the early 2000s, when researchers and designers began experimenting with using living materials like mycelium and bacteria to create new building materials and construction techniques. One notable example of this is the use of mycelium, the vegetative part of fungi, to create biodegradable building materials. Designers like Phil Ross and David Benjamin have experimented with growing mycelium on agricultural waste products like corn stalks to create strong, lightweight materials that can be used for insulation, packaging, and even building structures.

Another example of biodesign in construction is the development of self-healing concrete. Researchers like Henk Jonkers have used bacterial spores embedded in concrete to create a material that can repair its own cracks and damage. The bacteria lie dormant until the concrete is damaged, at which point they grow and produce a mineral that fills in the cracks.

Sustainable Construction

Biodesign is not only creating sustainable building materials but also transforming the way buildings are designed and constructed. It is a means to design energy- and sustainable buildings to promote biodiversity and bring nature closer to urban spaces.

In addition to these specific examples, biodesign is also being used more broadly to create more sustainable and resilient buildings and infrastructure. One way that biodesign is being applied is by creating buildings that are more integrated with their natural environments, using living materials and systems to regulate temperature and air quality. For example, the use of green roofs and living walls can help to reduce the energy needed to heat and cool buildings, while also providing habitats for wildlife and promoting biodiversity.

Biodesign is also being used to create buildings and infrastructure that are more adaptable and resilient in the face of climate change. For example, researchers are exploring the use of living materials like seaweed to create building materials that can withstand rising sea levels and storm surges. Other researchers are looking at the use of bioluminescent materials to create roads and other infrastructure that can glow in the dark, reducing the need for energy-intensive lighting.


The emergence of biodesign in the construction industry represents an exciting new frontier in sustainable design and engineering. By using living systems and materials, designers and engineers are able to create solutions that are more efficient, adaptable, and resilient than traditional construction materials and techniques. Moreover, by incorporating biodesign principles into the design process, we can create buildings and infrastructure that are better integrated with their natural environments, promoting sustainability and biodiversity.

As we face the urgent challenges of climate change and resource depletion, it is clear that we need innovative new solutions to create a more sustainable future. Biodesign represents one such solution, harnessing the power of nature to create a more sustainable and resilient built environment. With continued research and innovation in this field, we can look forward to a future where our buildings and infrastructure work in harmony with the natural world, promoting sustainability, biodiversity, and a healthier planet for all.

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1 Comment

Jivko Hristov
Jivko Hristov
Apr 18, 2023

A very informative and thought-provoking piece! Thank you, Arnav

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