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Werner Karl Heisenberg

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The Knowledge of Science in The Built Environment

Science is everywhere. In fact, the picture frame hanging perfectly on your wall is a matter of all forces acting in equilibrium, but we’re not here to talk about that! Just look around. You are probably sitting on your sofa or lying on your bed in the comfort of your own home which protects and keeps you safe from all the harsh weather and gives you exactly the privacy you need, just like everyone else in your neighborhood!

This is called the “Built Environment”, defined as “the human-made space in which people live, work and recreate on a day-to-day basis.’’ So your homes, the cities, the landscape, and the streets you walk in are all designed to fit human needs. But is it being done right? Sure, each day passes and it probably doesn’t even cross our minds, but come another few years and the consequences of creating concrete jungles will be undeniable, uncomfortable, and irreversible. 

The concept of a green and sustainable environment is slowly starting to rise as global warming & climate change are reaching alarming levels. Today, architects and scientists are going back to the drawing board in an attempt to answer a fundamental question – How can we make buildings that do more and use less? The best example to answer this question comes from nature itself.

Biology and material science advances are creating new green options that have the potential to greatly transform the relationship between the built environment and the natural world. Here are 5 ways they’re becoming the next frontier in and potentially carving a path towards a new kind of architecture.

  1. Using biomimicry to solve design problems.

Biomimicry is a method of solving human challenges by learning and imitating the strategies in nature. It is often used to seek sustainable measures by understanding the principles guiding the form rather than replicating the form itself. In other words, this interaction means that nature’s inventions can be transformed into design capabilities. “Nature is by far the richest source of inspiration and knowledge that we have.”

“Nature is always fighting to use limited resources most effectively to exist with, and we are entering that era ourselves” says Dr Rupert Soar at Nottingham Trent University

A famous example is the Eastgate building in Harare, Zimbabwe. This shopping centre, which opened in 1996, is a perfect example of biomimicry because of the way its ventilation system was inspired by termite mounds. Termite mounds have a chimney-like design. The mound absorbs heat from the sun during the day, and by nightfall, the mound’s internal air is warmer than the outside.

The Eastgate Building mimics the chimney-like design

In the Eastgate Building, depending on which is hotter, the building concrete or the air, the outside air that is drawn in is either warmed or cooled by the building. It is then let out through chimneys at the top of the building ( pictured above )  after flowing into the floors and offices. 

The building has no typical heating or cooling at all but regulates temperatures year-round with reduced energy consumption. Pretty cool isn’t it?

  1. Introducing Bio-engineered Materials to increase a green environment performance.

Between biology and material science lies bioengineered materials, which have the ability to grow, produce energy, and self-heal –  pretty much a Midas Touch.

These living building materials (LBM) may pave the way for a new type of building by exhibiting biological qualities that span the fields of design, material science, chemistry, and bioengineering.

Mycelium based structure known as The Circular Garden in Milan, Italy

Mycelium can grow in various simple organic materials, including straw and other agricultural waste, if the necessary nutrients are present. Recent technology has discovered that mycelium ( the root-like structure of a fungus) can grow fast and create materials with important structural performance. Following treatment, the network of threads transforms into a material that is remarkably waterproof and able to withstand a lot of stress.

  1. Improving the lifespan of regular concrete. 

Concrete cracks in the building are usually the beginning of the end because water seeping through will eventually rust the metal rods that keep the structure sturdy. 

However, researchers are currently testing self-healing concrete. A team at the Delft University of Technology led by Henk Jonkers is now researching a promising strategy that involves using bacterial spores in the concrete mix; technically a hybrid material! Just like how plants are bred to improve their offspring’s characteristics don’t you think? 

When water seeps in through tiny openings, the bacteria come back to life. Concrete physically “springs to life” and soon begins a chemical reaction as new calcite crystals form and “heal” the concrete. Using this approach, the lifespan of a concrete building could be increased by several decades or more.

Self-healing concrete 

  1. Developing an ecological mindset when the building is key to sustainable living

The initial idea behind sustainable architecture is the adaptation of the natural and social environments. Environmental concerns and sustainable design are fairly well known today. Any design that aspires to be a sustainable building must demonstrate a high level of ecological consciousness, which is why it should draw inspiration from the natural world.

Imagine you’re living in a home designed to fit around sustainable standards. It saves you energy, provides time efficiency and you get that inkling feeling of satisfaction (trust me, it does !) knowing you’re in a space that takes care of you and your surroundings for the better. That’s why architects try to design spaces with reusable, environmentally- friendly materials. 

Simon Centre at the State University of New York is a key example of sustainable features embedded into its design

For example, The Simon Centre for Geography and Physics located in New York uses natural daylighting through an atrium, green roofs, solar shading through its dynamic window facade and rainwater collection for daily use.

  1. Designing the landscape to improve the building’s needs.

Landscape architects work with morphology, botany, the biological makeup of plants, texture, and design to specify foliage for clients in a manner that is appropriate and touches up on LEED certification ( which is the green building rating system that provides a framework for healthy, efficient, and cost-saving green buildings of course)

An example includes using correct soil biology to improve stormwater treatment over large areas of the landscape, therefore if appropriately designed, trillions of microbes are being put together to work as a biological system and help it function.

proper soil biology translates to improved stormwater treatment

Just like how the built environment is curated to take care of us, it’s time we start caring for it too. There’s no need to get rid of a space when you can improve it to survive for much longer instead. Be it following the tiny footsteps of our fellow creatures, termites (and even ants) or creating a green hybrid material, The world around us is our blank canvas and its up to us to decide how green we can make it!


If you’re looking to make the space around you sustainable or if you’re planning to build one in the coming future there are a lot of systems you can consider;  the materials, lighting, insulation, and even your decorating choices! Here’s a few tips you can follow!

  • Incorporate green roofs or walls.

Designing a sustainable home with living elements is one of the most visually pleasing ways.  A green roof or wall has a water-retention layer that enables plants to grow on the surface. Living walls or roofs are energy efficient and environmentally friendly, not to mention beautiful to look at, thanks to the dense plant growth acting as natural insulators for the house.

  • Invest in blinds and curtains.

This aids in blocking the sun and deflecting solar energy, which otherwise would heat up your home throughout the summer. Utilizing window films and tints to block heat and harmful UV rays naturally reduces energy costs.

  • Composting

Even composting, yes. The harmful methane emissions that are emitted in landfills add significantly to the already pressing climate problems. It produces a nutrient-rich supplement for your plants and prevents waste from going to landfills.

  • Light wells

If you’re planning on speaking soon to the architect of your future home, suggest building a light well. They efficiently capture light, disperse it around a space, and eliminate the need for artificial lighting.

  • Painting your walls

If you live in a warm climate and want to paint your exterior walls black, or even a dark color for the sake of aesthetics, let this one go. Dark colors absorb a lot of heat and transfer it inside via conduction thus making your house warmer and hence the rise of your air conditioning usage. It even affects your neighbors’ space and their bill could be alarming too! So if you want to get on their good books ( and for the comfort of your wallet) stick to brighter and lighter colors to reflect the heat away.

  • Indoor plants 

If you live in an apartment and feel stuffy inside, don’t bother getting an air purifier- add some indoor plants! it’s the easiest, safest and most effective way to spruce up the air quality in your flat and add some nice fresh color to your space. Studies have even said that greenery tends to increase productivity levels and reduce anxiety.


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