MKW Event – How can Melbourne Learn from Nature?

As part of Melbourne Knowledge Week and Melbourne Architecture Annual, BiomimicrySwarm Australia is partnering with the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects and DesignInc to host a multi-disciplinary panel discussion on what Melbourne can learn from nature to create a sustainably regenerative and generous city.

This event also goes under the banner of Raising the Green Bar, an ongoing series of activities to raise awareness of sustainability, organised by the Sustainable Architects Forum and sponsored by Bank MECU.

Jane Toner, architect, Australia’s first Biomimicry Specialist and founder of BiomimicrySwarm Australia will chair the multi-faceted panel, that will consist of:

  • Suzette Jackson, Director of Innate Ecology
  • Leigh Baker, Director of Balance 3
  • Stephen Webb, Design Director at DesignInc
  • Jeff Robinson, Global Sustainability Leader at Aurecon
  • Ian Shears, Manager of Urban Landscapes at the City of Melbourne
  • Ed Cotter, Head of BioRegional Australia

There will be refreshments and networking after the panel discussion for the conversation to continue.

Date: Wednesday 29th October, 2014

Time: 6 – 8pm

Place: Deakin Edge, Federation Square

To book:

DSC00366MKW2014 - Raising the Green Bar

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Melbourne Knowledge Week Events


Melbourne Knowledge Week

Melbourne Knowledge Week (MKW) showcases the creativity and diversity of Melbourne’s knowledge sectors and the important contribution they make to our economy, culture and vitality. It also aims to support the many people and organisations that lie at the heart of this city’s dynamic knowledge economy.

In 2014, it runs from Monday 27th October to Sunday 2nd November. It’s about making knowledge accessible and fun and encouraging public debate about what it means to be a knowledge city.

The program is available here


Melbourne Architecture Annual (MA|A) is a week-long festival that engages with the public to create an open discussion about architecture, city building and sustainable communities. MA|A features a diverse program of events based around Federation Square and inner Melbourne that explores your city, your home and your architecture.

Organised by the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Chapter, MA|A aims to raise awareness of the effects the built environment has on our lives and society, and encourage public discussion about architecture. This year, MA|A coincides with MKW and BiomimicrySwarm Australia has several events that will be included in the program of both these initiatives.

Our 3 events are themed around the Essential Elements of Biomimicry, which are:

Grey-headed flying fox, Yarra Bend, Melbourne

Don’t hang around – Book your tickets today! Grey-headed Flying Fox, Yarra Bend, Melbourne (photo: Jane Toner)



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Biomimicry Photo Challenge – part 2

Here’s some tips and hopefully some inspiration for our Biomimicry Photo Challenge.  Post your images to #biomimic_lifesprinciples with another hashtag for the principle you are illustrating. See our part 1 for further details.

EVOLVE TO SURVIVE – Continually incorporate and embody information to ensure enduring performance

  • Replicate strategies that work – repeat successful approaches
  • Integrate the unexpected – incorporate mistakes in ways that can lead to new forms and functions
  • Reshuffle information – exchange and alter information that can lead to new options

Ocotillo & Hummingbird Plants use mobile “messengers” to reshuffle genetic information (pollen) between less mobile flowers. Hummingbirds are incredibly elegant messengers.
Evolve to Survive_hummingbird

BE RESOURCE EFFICIENT (MATERIALS & ENERGY) – Skillfully and conservatively take advantage of local resources and opportunities

  1. Use multi-functional design – meet multiple needs with one elegant solution
  2. Use low energy processes – minimise energy consumption by reducing requisite temperatures, pressures and/or time for reactions
  3. Recycle all materials – keep all material in a closed loop
  4. Fit form to function – select for shape or pattern based on need

Ant Deconstruction Team There is no waste in nature – all materials are recycled back into the system.
Be Resource Efficient_Ants

ADAPT TO CHANGING CONDITIONS – Appropriately respond to changing contexts

  1. Maintain integrity through self-renewal  – persist by constantly adding energy and matter to heal and improve the system
  2. Embody resilience through variation, redundancy, and decentralisation
  3. Incorporate diversity – include multiple forms, process, or systems to meet a functional need

Sustainable Living Festival (SLF) In all fairness we could ascribe all of life’s principles to the SLF but the expansion of the festival to encourage and embrace a diverse range of events all across Victoria further demonstrates how the SLF has adapted to changing conditions. (Image kindly donated by )
Adapt to changing conditions_slf

INTEGRATE DEVELOPMENT WITH GROWTH – Invest optimally in strategies that promote both development and growth

  1. Combine modular and nested components – fit multiple units within each other progressively from simple to complex
  2. Build from the bottom up – assemble components one unit at a time
  3. Self-organise – create conditions to allow components to interact in concert to move towards an enriched system

Trees balance Growth with Development Growth is getting larger in scale, size or number, while development is the framework and supporting systems, or infrastructure, that support growth. In nature growth and development are optimally balanced over time. If this tree did not develop a root system and cells to support this cantilever it would just fall down.
Integrate Development with Growth_2

BE LOCALLY ATTUNED & RESPONSIVE – Fit into and integrate with the surrounding environment

  • Use readily available materials and energy – build with abundant accessible materials while harvesting freely available energy
  • Cultivate cooperative relationships –find value through win-win interactions
  • Leverage cyclic process – take advantage of phenomena that repeat themselves
  • Use feedback loops – engage in cyclic information flows to modify a reaction appropriately

“Sensitive” Plant The leaves of this plant respond to touch, heat or wind by folding up and so avoid being eaten or dried out – a feedback loop that helps to ensure survival.
Adapt to changing conditions

USE LIFE-FRIENDLY CHEMISTRY – Use chemistry that supports life processes

  1. Build selectively with a small subset of elements – assemble relatively few elements in elegant ways
  2. Break down products into benign constituents – use chemistry in which decomposition results in no harmful by-products
  3. Do chemistry in water – use water as a solvent

Beetles create Structural Colour The colours we see in a beetle such as this is a trick of the light created by ultra thin layers of structure where each layer is slightly twisted from the one below in a corkscrew pattern – so the colour is really created by refraction and polarization and not chemical dyes.

Use Life friendly chemistry_2

You can find more in-depth information on Life’s Principles from Biomimicry 3.8 here

We’re not afraid of making mistakes and hope to learn from them – so if you have any feedback please feel free to share with us.

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Biomimicry Photo Challenge – part 1

Biomimicry looks to nature as mentor, model and measure to inspire innovative sustainable design solutions that create conditions conducive to all life on earth. Biomimicry celebrates the fact that all life is interconnected and interdependent, calling on us to respect and creatively emulate the wisdom of the 300 million or so species that have adapted to living on this planet over 3.8 billion years.

Throughout the Sustainable Living Festival, BiomimicrySwarm Australia is nurturing a BiomimicryPhoto Challenge to illustrate Life’s Principles, using Instagram,, Twitter (#biomimicryswarm) or post directly to our facebook page The hashtag for the challenge is #biomimic_lifesprinciples. Additional hashtags given below will identify which principle you are submitting for. The competition will run over the Sustainable Living Festival from 9th – 24th February.

Life’s Principles are the master set of strategies found in nature that create conditions conducive to life, they are:

  • Evolve to Survive                                                           #biomimic_evolve
  • Be Resource Efficient (materials & energy)               #biomimic_resource-eff
  • Be locally attuned and responsive                               #biomimic_locally
  • Integrate development with growth                            #biomimic_integrate
  • Use Life Friendly Chemistry                                         #biomimic_life-chemistry
  • Adapt to Changing Conditions                                       #biomimic_adapt

We are asking for images from nature and the built environment that best represent these concepts with a few words on why. The best images will be posted on our facebook page, biomimicryswarm Australia and our website By using the hashtags you are cool with us using your images which we will credit to you.

In reality, all of earth’s organisms integrate all Life’s Principles but we’ve tried to demonstrate the approach for this challenge by detailing the sub-principles for each of the deep principles and by providing some examples in our next post.

Happy Nature Snapping!

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Turning to nature to solve green building challenges

120407 Owl

Animals, plants, and microbes are the world’s greatest engineers and their approach to problem solving is being harnessed in a new marriage of nature and human innovation.

Biomimicry is a field of integrative study in which biological systems, processes, and elements are examined to draw analogies for application to human design challenges.

Jane Toner, Senior Associate at SBE, said that biomimicry seeks to embrace nature’s genius for adaptation to the earth’s various environments by finding solutions that contribute to creating conditions conducive to life on this planet. Jane has recently graduated as a Biomimicry Specialist with Biomimicry 3.8.

With millions of species of organisms existing in a wide range of climates and environments and billions of creative human minds, the possibilities for drawing on nature’s genius are endless,” said Jane.

Biomimicry is an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving in which biologists, architects, engineers, chemists, designers, and more combine their expertise with the knowledge of nature’s evolutionarily refined organisms to progress the fields of building design, technology, renewable energy, and beyond.

The central concept behind biomimicry is that nature has already solved many of the problems we’re dealing with today, and that animals, plants, and microbes are the world’s greatest architects, designers and engineers.

“Biomimics ask the question: How would nature do that?” Jane said. “Biomimicry takes some of nature’s best ideas, and applies them to solving human problems. This could be something like looking at how termite mounds maintain a constant temperature in spite of extreme external temperatures and then applying the learning to design energy-efficient ventilation systems in buildings such as the one designed by Mick Pearce in Harare, Zimbabwe.

“The fact that nature has been evolving and adapting to conditions on earth for 3.8 billion years means that biologically-inspired designs have a positive outcome for a sustainable environment,” said Jane. “We need to harness that knowledge for a more efficient and sustainable future.”

Related Links
• Ask Nature:

• Biomimicry 3.8:

• Eastgate Centre Building, Harare,


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