Snail-inspired Green Building


I recently had the honor of participating as one of 12 judges for the 2011 Biomimicry Student Design Challenge that was hosted by the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute (formerly The Biomimicry Institute). The Student Design Challenge was launched in September 2011 and was open to students from around the world who worked together on collaborative, local teams to develop a nature-inspired design concept. Fifty student teams from across 14 US states and 10 countries (Canada, India, Iran, Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Turkey) submitted concepts to the challenge and it was our job as judges to assess and select the top candidates for the $5,000 prize provided by the Merck Family Fund and Autodesk.

Snail-Inspired Design Wins Biomimicry Student Design Challenge 

Using the desert snail as inspiration for their design, a team of students from the Art Institute of Isfahan in Iran took the top honor in the third annual Biomimicry Student Design Challenge, organized by the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute. The team, consisting of master’s level and undergraduate students in architecture and business, conceived of a building that makes use of self-shading, surface reflection, and insulation to create a livable habitat rather than relying on air conditioning.

“The students from Isfahan created my favorite visual. When I look at this building, I want to see it in real life—want to visit it, spend a noon, night, and early morning in it—I can almost feel its shade and cool breeze,” said Janine Benyus, Biomimicry 3.8 Institute co-founder and design challenge judge. “While being completely modern in its sensibility, it is also incredibly ‘fitting’ to its place. I can give this form the highest compliment by saying that it looks like it belongs in the desert.  And indeed, it does, given that its inspiration comes from an ancient organism.”

“The team from Isfahan showed what is possible when we look to nature as a source of good ideas rather than a warehouse of goods,” said Megan Schuknecht, director of university education at the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute. “In this case, the students found inspiration from the desert snail, which has learned not just how to survive but to thrive in an arid, hot climate. Their snail-inspired building design is functional, beautiful, and energy-efficient, and has the potential for great impact in their home country.”

The team from the Art Institute of Isfahan will receive $5,000 for their first place design. They acknowledged their win with the following statement: “Winning this design challenge is overwhelmingly exciting. Biomimicry took our notion of nature to a higher level and structured our point of view and let us understand how to learn from nature in the path of design. We will surely look to it as a major resource of learning and designing.”

Want to read more about biomimicry?

Check out these biomimicry articles written by faculty members of MCAD’s Sustainable Design Online program:

Snail-inspired building design image courtesy of @Team Isfahan from the Art Institute of Isfahan. Portions of this article were taken from a public press release issued by the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute in February 2012.