What if We Used Nature as the Benchmark for Performance?

Mary Casey
Director, Social Infrastructure
HKA, Sydney

For many years in sustainability, we have used our past performance as the benchmark for our current work. This approach was valuable in building awareness, but it has taken us as far as it can go. By definition, it is backward-looking and cannot provide any guidance about how to get to where we want to be.

This presentation proposed a new benchmark: Nature. What if we used biomimicry as a basis for a new design brief for tall buildings and urban habitat? Architecture’s highest civic aspiration is to express who we wish to be as a community, as a culture. What if we extended that idea and asked architecture to also describe who we wish to be as a species?

Seeing nature as model, measure, and mentor affords us the opportunity to design according to our best vision of ourselves in relationship to our ecosystems. In doing so, we would obtain: improved resiliency in our infrastructure; adaptive designs specifically suited to their place; increased health, wellbeing, and productivity in our human population; and improved biodiversity in our urban environment.
Through the lens of biomimicry, we ask the question: What is the role of tall buildings in the urban ecosystem? What might we discover?

This presentation looked at the Living Building Challenge and Living Community Challenge frameworks, as well as case study examples in both nature and the built environment to illustrate what “good” looks like and extrapolate the impacts on how we design our cities and tall buildings.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation

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